Karen McAdams

Karen Kjristine McAdams, 50, died May 11, 2023 of complications due to COVID, while being previously diagnosed with multiple system atrophy, a very rare neurodegenerative disease. She was a prisoner in her own body, and she has now been released to sing in heaven.

Karen was born October 29, 1972 to her parents Gary and Linda Onan, and was a big sister to Peter and Bridget. She spent her growing up years near Madison when her dad went back to school and in Amherst where she spent most of her childhood. As she grew up, she was a 4-H kid, played with Barbies, argued with and loved her brother and sister, and then discovered her beautiful and powerful singing voice. Her talent took her from local theater and high school programs to UW-Eau Claire and Austria, where she participated in a summer opera program.

That participation emboldened her to prepare for a Masters degree. A summer internship at Yellowstone National Park led her to Steamboat Springs CO, where after a break to earn her Masters degree in vocal instruction from UC-Greeley, she settled into the community. She was teaching at the community college and moonlighting at the local bookstore when a great accident occurred. At the last minute, she participated in a speed dating event at the book store and met John Nelson McAdams from Mer Rouge, Louisiana. The two liberal arts refugees met, dated and married in the space of ten months. They argued, fought, compromised, made up and stayed together for over seventeen years.

After moving to Dallas, Karen began teaching voice students at several local middle and high schools in the area. She also directed the King of Glory Lutheran youth choir and Christmas program, and was a local member of Sigma Alpha Iota, the national singer’s sorority. Karen and John’s first child Ian Michael was born in 2008, and Christopher Bryan was born in 2012. Karen was a devoted mother who unabashedly loved her kids.

Karen showed symptoms of MSA at the start of her marriage, but the disease progression was very slow. When her neurological symptoms became too much to handle, and a correct diagnosis of MSA was finally given in January 2019, her family moved to WI to receive care from the Mayo Clinic and live with her parents, Gary and Linda, who worked tirelessly on Karen’s behalf.

Survivors include her husband John Nelson McAdams and sons Ian and Chris McAdams; parents Gary and Linda Onan; great grandmother Marge Sawyer; great aunt Donna Wiesen; great aunt Patricia Fry; brother Peter and wife Michela Onan; sister Bridget and brother-in-law Adam Heltne, nephew Isaac and niece Anna; in-laws Johnny and Donna Margaret McAdams; sister and brother-in-law Sarah and Charles Collins, nephew Charlie and nieces Claire and Sadie Jane; aunt and uncle Jo and Gene Schoohs; Gail and Terry Schley; uncle and aunt David Onan and Mary Patoka; uncle and aunt Mike and Connie Onan and numerous cousins and friends.

A special thank you to Cathy Leaf for her unwavering and lifelong friendship to Karen and her family, for the United Methodist church in Hudson for their much needed emotional and spiritual support, and to the staff at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, St Croix Hospice, and Inclusa, all of whom contributed mightily to Karen’s care and well being. A special thank you to Seliina Toy and particularly Sue Lundgaard for being wonderful caregivers in Karen’s final months.

A memorial service for Karen will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at United Methodist Church in Hudson, WI. Visitation will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with a service starting at 1:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to MSA Coalition (http://www.multiplesystematrophy.org) to help further advance scientific knowledge of MSA. Thank you.

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