After being surrounded by her beloved family members and friends during her final weeks in this world, Jaan Karsh passed away on the morning of August 20, 2018.
Jaan was the first child of a large loving family consisting of her mother, Ronnie, her father, Norman, sisters and brothers Andy Karsh, Scott Karsh, Lori Karsh Williams, Jim Johnston and Kim Johnston Martin, and aunts, uncles, and cousins, including Aunt Margot Nuthmann, who tirelessly and lovingly helped Jaan throughout her final months.
Jaan was born in Hammond, Indiana, where Jaan’s family owned and operated a bakery. Jaan had fond memories of the scintillating scents and irresistibly tempting taste of the baked goods. Jaan relished the warmth of the bakery and of her family, friends, and community.
When Jaan was a young child, her family moved to Fresno, where they operated another bakery. Her family recalls that Jaan was absolutely gorgeous and adorable. Everyone thought she should would have been a great model for children’s clothing.
Jaan returned to Hammond as a teenager, to live with her grandmother and attend high school. Jaan was always a good student and had a keen interest in all aspects of high school life, particularly the boys! She was charming, vivacious and engaging and never had any difficulty finding a date for a school dance. Most importantly, she had a knack, even from an early age, for engaging with people, recognizing the best in each person, and letting her friends and family know that they were special to her.
Jaan had a close-knit extended family. She used to love spending time with them, especially on vacations. Perhaps it was those vacations that sparked Jaan’s lifelong love of travel.
Jaan went to work at Disneyworld before it even opened, helping them to develop their tourism. While in Florida, she graduated from college. From that time forward, Jaan’s professional life centered on the travel industry. After graduating from college, she moved to Santa Barbara, where she held various travel-related jobs, including at the Fess Parker Hotel. The crowning achievement of her professional career was working as the travel coordinator for UCSB’s athletics department for over 20 years.
The biggest joy of Jaan’s life, and the thing for which she most wants to be remembered, was being Heather Karsh’s mom. To say that Jaan loved and adored her “Heather from Heaven,” who Jaan described as being born in Jaan’s heart, with all of her heart and soul would be an enormous understatement. Jaan desperately wanted to have a child, and it was not until later in her life that she adopted Heather. From the moment they met, they formed a love so deep that no challenge, trauma, or tragedy could alter it. Jaan loved everything about Heather, but particularly loved Heather’s thoughtfulness and compassion for others.
Jaan relished food and was well known for eating slowly and savoring every bite. It was during her childhood that Jaan first developed her lifelong love for ice cream and popcorn. A recurring theme in her life was munching on popcorn with friends and family, particularly in the evening. Heather happily continues that theme.
Like Jaan, Heather developed a love for animals. In Jaan’s case it was dogs, especially her treasured Kirby Boy and Artie Joe. For Heather, it is dogs and horses. Jaan did whatever she could to make sure that Heather could spend time riding and taking care of horses. Jaan was especially proud of Heather for volunteering at Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center, which uses horses to inspire, strengthen, and motivate people of all ages and capabilities.
Jaan was not extravagant, but did occasionally pamper herself. She enjoyed an occasional spa treatment and traveling. More often, she enjoyed simple pleasures, such as walking on the beach, picking up shells and rocks, exploring the underwater world of SCUBA, giving and receiving massages, taking and teaching stretching and yoga classes, being in or near water, or simply relaxing in a hammock.
Jaan asked that we include the following in her obituary: “As she transitions from this world to the next life, she leaves this world having loved and been loved, having accomplished, and, most importantly, having been mom to her amazing daughter, Heather. Heather was her life’s greatest challenge, but more so, and much more importantly, her life’s greatest love and reward. She was a highly independent, determined, stubborn, impatient, and serious-minded woman, but one with a deep compassionate soul, who laughed wholeheartedly and loved without limits.”
There will be a celebration of Jaan’s life at 6 pm on Thursday September 20 at Congregation B’nai B’rith. All who loved Jaan are welcome to attend, share a story, and share a pot luck dish. Rest assured, there will be popcorn and ice cream.
If you are so inspired, please make a donation in Jaan’s memory to The Ridley Tree Cancer Center, 540 W. Pueblo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.