Karen Walker (Cornelsen) was born June 21, 1950 in Sunnyvale, CA, and moved to WA with her family in 1954. She grew up on a farm in Ferndale and attended church at Birch Bay Mennonite Church in her youth. Her wealth of growing up stories included taking care of chickens and listening to her dad ‘cuss’ at the cows in German. She had fond memories of spending time with her brothers, accidentally tethering her dog ‘Blacky’ to the electric fence and learning how to cook and sew with her mom, Martha. Karen accepted Jesus into her heart at an early age and cherished a lifelong relationship with Him.
Karen graduated in 1968 from Ferndale High School where she resided most of her life. She attended her 55th high school reunion just a few short months ago. She was always very active, running or walking daily and even completing some half marathons ‘late’ in her life! Activity was important to her and she would also include her grandchildren in her daily exercise when she would visit.
Karen met Larry Bartell in high school. They courted, married young and moved to Texas where Larry was attending LeTourneau College in Longview. Larry entered military service following graduation and was stationed in Pensacola, FL where Stephanie, Shelly and Jeremy were born. Larry was pursuing a position in the Naval flight program, but was prohibited due to a heart condition. He entered into work as a mechanical engineer and they lived in Pensacola for 6 years prior to moving back to Ferndale when Larry took a job with Anvil Corp.
Larry, Karen and family lived on Brookwood Dr. north of Ferndale and had many close relationships with people in their neighborhood. The children still have many fond memories of the times there riding bikes in the woods, climbing trees, gardening and playing outside until the sun went down. Larry passed away (1980) at 33 years old from a heart condition while on a business trip to Omaha, NE. Karen’s relationship with Christ provided a pillar of strength for her through the loss. The Lord carried Karen and the kids through this time bringing in family and friends for support and comfort.
On November 11, 1982 Karen married Bruce Walker – they met playing co-ed volleyball at Hillcrest Church in Fairhaven, WA. Bruce actually invited Karen to her first high school prom early in courtship (1981) – she accepted! Bruce brought his son David into the marriage – He and Karen built a house and moved their blended family just around the corner to Lynden to raise the children on a farm with cows, pigs and sheep (no chickens!). During this time, Kara was born and provided a burst of energy to the family dynamic. The family would attend local fairs and livestock shows over the years with the kids showing and selling the animals that they raised. Karen and Bruce continued to instill a vibrant work ethic in their children – weeding the large family garden and helping collect the harvest was a big part of the family lifestyle. Memories of Brunswick Stew and snipping/cutting beans for canning abound.
The family moved back to Ferndale when Stephanie and Shelly entered high school. All of their children would finish their educations there before moving on to various colleges and careers. Around this time, Bruce, Karen and family began attending Good News Fellowship Church in Ferndale where Bruce later would join the leadership group as an elder.
Karen and Bruce became heavily involved in the Young Life youth ministry organization during their kids’ high school years. They would serve as local area committee members and mentor leaders for two decades. Many very close relationships resulted from this involvement. Karen and Bruce also served on volunteer assignments to Young Life Camps for upkeep and fellowship.
Once the kids had left, Karen and Bruce sold the house and land on Douglas Rd. in Ferndale and moved to a new neighborhood off of Vista Dr in 2015. The new house was selected with a mind on their large family. There was room for everyone to stay and a large community recreation area for the grandkids to play. Bruce quickly turned the backyard into a productive garden and they both enjoyed watching the various birds that would come in to visit Bruce’s homemade feeders. This new neighborhood provided a wealth of opportunity for Karen and Bruce to build ‘community’. They fostered many dear relationships with a wide variety of families and people. The importance of this community to Karen cannot be understated – she would constantly relate stories of the people, food, and fellowship that she had over the years with those that lived in her area. Karen held various jobs while raising her family – beginning as a homemaker and then as an aide at Central Elementary School in Ferndale. She finished her professional career as an Administrative Assistant for the Under-Sheriff at the Whatcom County Jail. She deeply valued her relationships with her co-workers throughout her working careers (and got some enjoyment out of disciplining kids – her own included – at recess!).
Ministry was a huge part of Karen and Bruce’s life after their kids had moved on to lives outside the home. They joined an organization that allowed them to travel to China to both teach at TaiShan International Medical School in Taian, China. This gave them opportunities to visit, minister and witness to a multitude of students. They would have meals and fellowship in their small apartment with students from China and other countries. It was one of the more cherished experiences that Karen had after retirement. Travel was always special to her and the ability to travel, teach and minister was something that God graced her with.
Family and relationships were of the utmost importance to Karen throughout her life. She had a profound impact on those she met as well as her children and grandchildren. It is probably safe to say that the word ‘relationship’ could be used to define Karen. Those that knew her, knew her well and loved her - and she will be missed – deeply.
Karen Ann Walker (73) entered into rest with her Lord Jesus Christ at her Ferndale, WA home Friday, December, 22 2023. She is survived by her husband Bruce Walker; daughter Stephanie Rose (Goleta, CA) her husband Jon Rose, children Samantha, Isabella and Easton; daughter Shelly Pommer (Sammamish, WA) her husband Matt, children Micah and Josie; son Jeremy Bartell (Gilmer, TX) his wife Neely, children Logan, Landon, and Hudson; son David Walker (Blaine, WA) children Sebatian, Lizzy and McKenzie; daughter Kara Walker (Loveland, CO) her wife Kelly McKnight; Karen’s brothers Richard Cornelsen, his wife Carol and Daniel Cornelsen, his wife Patty as well as numerous nieces, nephews and friends. Karen is preceded in death by her husband Larry Bartell, parents Jonas and Martha (Magner) Cornelsen and Merle Magner.
A memorial service for Karen will be held Friday, January 12, 2023 at 2:00 PM at Good News Fellowship Church, 1252 W Axton Rd, Ferndale, WA 98248. If you have a photo of you and her and would like to share a copy in person or via Facebook along with a Tribute or story, we'll have a place to display them and plan to make a book later down the road in her memory. Donations can be made in lieu of flowers and in honor of Karen to Young Life of Whatcom County (nwc.younglife.org) or Engedi (engedirefuge.com).
Memorial Live streamed link https://youtube.com/live/KhhJhgK3-Jg?feature=share