In Memory

Karen Ann Keating (Ihrig) VIEW PROFILE


Karen Ann Ihrig lived as a loving wife and mother, a loyal friend, and a fearless champion for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout her joy-filled life. Her advocacy for children began in the early 1970s when she and her husband David established The Early Learning Place, a daycare center in West Omaha. They partnered with ENCOR in a progressive program welcoming and providing social development and education to developmentally delayed infants and toddlers. Later, as an in-home teacher with the Omaha Public Schools for infants with disabilities, Karen's commitment expanded to include the entire family. She was a founding member of the OPS early education program in which she created programs for parents of disabled kids to network, share, and support each other. In 1984, Karen's passion led to a partnership with Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy-Shriver to establish Nebraska Let's Play to Grow, a program centered on family engagement for growth and development. Over the past decade, Karen volunteered for and served on the board of the Madonna Workshop, where her tenacity and relentless spirit was instrumental in securing financial support to fund summer vacations for Workshop clients. Karen was also the Board President for 2 residential homes serving developmentally delayed adults.

An Omaha native, Karen grew up in South Omaha and was a Mercy High School alumna. In 1966, she met the love of her life, Dave, while working at the Glenwood State Hospital School in Iowa: she was in the foster grandparent program, he was a vocational counselor. For the next 48 years, they were inseparable. Soon after the birth of her first son, Tim in 1969, work took them to Whittier CA, and then Philadelphia PA, before returning to Omaha in 1971 to establish The Early Learning Place. She had Scott, their second son, in 1972.

After a rich and rewarding career as a teacher of kids with disabilities, Karen and David founded Printmakers, which provided customized textiles and advertising specialty items to companies across the United States. As a business owner and community member, Karen generously gave her time and resources to causes about which she cared. She was a member of Optimist International and Rotary Club.

Karen's love for Christmas was only surpassed by her love for her family: her husband Dave; son: Dr. Timothy Ihrig and his wife Christine Anderson-Ihrig and children, Oliver (9), Mathilda (6), and Mirabelle (2) of Des Moines, IA; and son: Scott Ihrig, Esq. and his husband Shannon Morrison of Columbus, OH. In her later years, nothing brought her more joy than visits from her grandchildren, or a cold Diet Coke.

Her family and wide circle of friends will miss her endless optimism, her boisterous laugh, and will likely lose a few pounds without Karen around to force baked goods upon them. Moreover, they will miss a generous, kind soul with the wisdom to recognize the inherent value in every human, regardless of their color, creed, or ability. Her presence was immense and her absence will be profound. Karen loved sending and receiving greeting cards: earnest, poignant, and irreverent cards.

As a tribute to the reach of her spirit, the family requests that those wishing to remember Karen send a greeting card with your notes and memories to the family in care of: Scott Ihrig at IM Creative (1020 Dennison Avenue, Suite 304, Columbus, OH, 43201).

A CELEBRATION of her Life will take place on Sunday, September 24, at 4pm at the Field Club of Omaha (3615 Woolworth Avenue). In lieu of flowers, the family requests any memorials be directed to The Karen Fund at The Madonna Workshop (9205 Bedford Ave, Omaha, NE 68134).

Her message to family and friends mourning her loss would be embodied by her favorite saying: "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again."

Click here to see Karen Ann's last Profile entry.