Karen (Staid) Ireland, 59
Belfast — Karen (Staid) Ireland, 59, died peacefully at her Belfast home on Jan. 9, 2013, after two decades of vying with cancer for her health. She was born on April 3, 1953, in Beverly, Mass. Nicknamed "Sunshine" as a teen, she graduated from Andover (Mass.) High School and earned her R.N. degree, specializing in psychiatric nursing, from Boston University. Previously, she worked as a house painter, carny, carpenter,and truck driver for Boston-area food co-ops. Karen danced to her own drummer, thinking and acting independently her entire life.
She was an extraordinarily intentional person with high standards for herself and others. Openly a recovering alcoholic, Karen committed herself to sobriety 32 years ago -- and to living healthfully and wholeheartedly. She was known for her profuse lunch salads: if it's good for you, it was in there. A bird-watcher and staunch believer in permaculture, she landscaped her Cedar Street yard to promote both. She also fostered a culture of mutual support among her neighbors, who helped her stay in her home as her health ebbed.
Throughout her life, Karen was an activist. She demonstrated as a teen against the Vietnam War and, more recently, against the Keystone XL pipeline, even though cancer made her three trips to Washington painful. She advocated for reduced dependence on oil and refurbished her home accordingly. She traveled to El Salvador to learn how she and others could support human rights for its people. In 2011 she repeatedly took homemade soups to Occupy Portland members camping in Lincoln Park. Always, she taught friends and associates about the issues that concerned her.
Karen could be fierce, but she was also tenderhearted and joyful. She was quick to laugh and passionate in her love of nature, music, fiber work and fine art. She was a high priestess of play, making her an especially effective psychiatric nurse with her favorite patient population, adolescents. Her generosity as a friend, sister and aunt emerged in countless pies, cookies, costumes, shawls, Halloween parties, and a myriad of other gifts.
Surviving family members include a sister, MaryBeth (Staid) Mathews, of Cumberland; brothers Kevin P. Staid of Lowell, Mass., Jonathan W. Staid of Lawrence, Mass., and Bonita Springs, Fla., and Brian J. Staid of Bowdoinham; her father, J. Leo Staid, of Bonita Springs, Fla.; a half-sister, Martha (Staid) Stein, of Washington, D.C.; a half-brother, Timothy Staid, of Anchorage, Alaska, and Fort Myers, Fla.; and 11 nieces and nephews. In addition, Karen also leaves a stout community of friends.
She was predeceased by her mother, Corinne (Wilkins) Staid, and by her youngest sister, Kathleen A. (Staid) Willis.
A celebration of Karen's life will be held Feb. 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, 37 Miller St., at 3 p.m. Memorial gifts may be made to 350.org or to the Maine Organic Gardeners and Farmers Association.