[ back ]
Tribute to Karen Whitman
She was synonymous with “Hilltop U.S.A.” and was an energetic champion of community businesses. She lived her life, as the saying goes “out loud.” Karen Whitman passed away June 29 and that is a very sad thing.
The Hilltop is the neighborhood she loved, she served, and treasured. As a two-decade member of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission (GHAC), Hilltop Business Association, Friends of the Hilltop, etc., Karen was known to be a dynamo.
She was one of the first women realtors in the 1960’s and loved telling stories about her family’s ice cream shop on Sullivant Avenue.
She didn’t know a stranger; she could talk to anyone, anytime, about anything. She was a treasure and she will be deeply missed by those who knew her. Whether you were a relative, a neighbor or someone at a meeting, you could not help the urge to call her “friend.”
Karen was a mentor to me and many other current community leaders over the years. She was a good friend and worked diligently to improve the image of Hilltop, USA. She loved her family, her friends, and the Hilltop passionately. She lived her life in service to others, unapologetically and with gusto. Karen will be missed and not soon forgotten by those she touched.”
“We probably would not have held National Night Out that first year if she wouldn't have been there to encourage and cheer us on,” said Lisa Boggs, co-founder of Ogden Avenue Blockwatch.
“The last time I saw Karen was a couple of weeks before the Bean Dinner. She was at McDonalds enjoying an ice cream cone and she said, ‘You know I can’t get out much but I will get out for ice cream,’ as she smiled and chuckled. And then, Karen immediately changed the conversation to a discussion on how she could find help for one of her friends,” resident Danielle Weber said.
“Weeks after moving in 2004 to my Westside home, my neighbors asked if I could help get Briggs Road shopping center repaired or demolished, which I soon learned was a crumbling eyesore since 1977. When I learned about an upcoming Columbus Development Board hearing with Briggs Road Shopping Center property owner, I notified Karen and also asked several neighbors to attend the afternoon hearing with me. To my utter surprise and gratification I turned around from the front row at the hearing to see Karen and around 35 Westside neighbors, merchants, GHAC members, and political reps - all supporting this matter being addressed. I honestly believe Karen's effective networking made things happen that day,” resident Natalie Farber said.
Jack Schultz, owner of Jack’s Coney’s recalls that before moving to the West Broad location he had a little “shack” on Sullivant Avenue. Karen Whitman was among the first people to visit on behalf of the Hilltop Business Association to welcome him to the community.
“Karen and I attended United Way Neighborhood Partnership Program meeting training class that had to do with diversity. As we are going around the room discussing racial issues in our community other attendees spoke on the tension with different ethnic groups. Karen spoke up and said, ‘I don’t care what color you are, I see us all as being Appalachians!’ The room started laughing and the tension was gone. From that moment on we were all the same,” GHAC Commissioner Tasha Corson said.
These are only a few of the many stories that could be told, including a doozy from Karen’s “baby brother” about Las Vegas… but we’ll let that one stay in the family. She was loved and she loved. She served her community, her family and her friends and she left her little part of the world better than she found it.
Columbus City Council plans to honor Karen with a “black line” resolution in the near future.
Similarly, there may also be recognition from the state legislature forthcoming. The planter in front of Jack’s Coney’s on West Broad Street is being placed by Friends of the Hilltop in Karen’s memory.
The Greater Hilltop Area Commission and Friends of the Hilltop are working on a joint award to be given each year bearing the name and continuing the legacy of Karen Whitman.
[ back ]