Karen Dee Phillips

Date of Birth

September 15, 1951

Date of Death

September 23, 2008

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Karen Dee Phillips passed away peacefully on September 23rd at the Sarah House hospice in Santa Barbara. Born in Downey, CA to Dolores and Charles Phillips on September 15th, 1951, Karen lived her early childhood in Downey, apart from a year spent in Virginia while her father clerked for the Supreme Court. The family then moved to Hacienda Heights, where Karen attended junior high and high school.

In 1969, she came to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB, eventually earning degrees in German Literature and in Speech and Hearing. As a junior at UCSB, Karen participated in the UC Student Abroad Program in Gottingen, Germany. She so loved the experience that she remained in Germany for three years, during which time she formed friendships that lasted the rest of her life.

Karen returned to Santa Barbara to stay in 1974. She completed her degrees at UCSB, and was then employed for many years at Applied Magnetics as a Corporate Trainer and Systems Analyst, before moving on to work at State Farm Insurance and, for the last decade, as an independent landscape designer.

She married Lloyd Nugent in 1987, and together they raised two daughters: Gillian and Molly, who were the fulfillment of her dreams and the true loves of her life.

Karen was a linguist, fluent in German and conversant in several languages. She was a talented seamstress, guitarist, artist, and teacher, as well as a gifted landscape designer, who added her singular touch to many gardens in the Santa Barbara area. She was a ceaseless reader and an enthusiastic conversationalist, with a passionate curiosity about countless subjects. She had a discerning and sincere appreciation for the talents and abilities of her friends, for whom she was a constant source of encouragement.

Karen was a beautiful woman with a loveliness of spirit that always transcended the ugliness of disease and the indignities of her circumstances. Cancer was the official cause of her death, but it was truly never any match for her dauntless spirit, with her explosive laugh that would startle the uninitiated; her resolute unwillingness to allow herself to be diminished by the cavalcade of horrors that accompanied her disease; and most of all, her ever-present smiles–always a smile to comfort her children, calm her husband, and light the hearts of her friends.

She is survived by daughters Gillian and Molly, husband Lloyd, mother Dolores, brother Robert, aunts Dee Redmond and Doris Gunsauls, and many loving cousins and in-laws.

A blessing from her husband: Karen, may you be someplace where every morning you can hold your babies in your arms, drink Irish tea and eat fresh croissants drowning in butter; every afternoon, laugh uproariously and converse endlessly with your friends; and every evening, walk your dogs on Hendry’s beach, dance with a man you love, and let Rickie Lee Jones lull you softly to sleep. Then sleep deeply, dreaming of English gardens bursting with flowers and resting contentedly in the full assurance of how sweetly you are loved by your children, your family, your friends, and your husband, who adores you forever from his “deep heart’s core.” Sleep well, sweetheart. I know I will see you again on some new morning. Until then, we all love you.

On Karen’s behalf, the family would like to thank the brilliant Dr. Mukul Gupta, the incomparable nurses at the Sansum Clinic, and the impossibly kind and capable management and staff of Sarah House.

There will be a celebration of Karen’s life at Sarah House, 2612 Modoc Road, on October 19th at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Sarah House in Karen’s memory.


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