Karen Schaaf Swick


A loving inspiration

Schaaf Swick is an inspiration for how to spend a life surrounded by love. Dedicated to family, Karen was never far from her darling Jimmy. Alongside her own children, Karen nurtured thousands of students during her 25 years as a beloved elementary school teacher in the San Fernando Valley. Karen Schaaf Swick passed away on November 18, 2022. She was 82 years old. 

Karen was born August 13, 1940, on Long Island, New York, to parents John Brown and Ruth Mosher, joining one older sister, Gail, and later, her younger brother John. Karen was a beautiful child—her mother frequently told stories of being stopped by people complimenting Karen’s flowing blonde curls. Karen also shone with her sunny disposition. Her infectious laugh was often heard when Karen, Gail, and John were together. Karen deeply loved her siblings, especially big sister Gail, who was her best friend and remained so until Gail’s passing in 2011. 

Karen attended North Shore High School in Glen Head, NY. Later, she graduated from Oswego College with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education. After college, Karen married her first husband, Jack, and they had two sons, Michael and Shawn. While the marriage ended in divorce in 1970, it was the reason Karen relocated to California when her husband, a Marine, was based at Camp Pendleton. In 1971, Karen met James (Jimmy) Swick, the coach of her son Michael’s T-ball team. The couple quickly became inseparable. In 1972, Karen married Jimmy Swick and became stepmother to eight stepchildren: Jimmy Jr., Todd, Jeffrey, Yeric, Susan, Tammy, Kimberly, and Bridget. Karen and Jimmy spent the next 48 years as the loves of each other’s lives until Jimmy’s passing in 2020.

Karen thrived when surrounded by children. For 25 years, Karen nurtured young minds at Pinecrest School and Our Lady of the Valley Catholic School. Students remember her as a patient and understanding teacher who blended crafts and fun activities with academics. She truly had a unique talent for making every child feel special. 

After family, Karen’s greatest passion was sports. She and Jimmy were members at Braemar Country Club, where Karen played two or three rounds of golf a week for 30 years—and in 2011, she sunk a hole-in-one on the course! She was also a dedicated Dodgers fan. Karen attended 20 games a season and listened to Vin Scully for nearly every game over the last 40 years.

Karen had a talent for creating traditions. For Jimmy and Karen, every Friday night was movie night. They dined daily at their favorite local restaurant, Nico’s in Woodland Hills, for ten years, where Karen preferred two poached eggs and lots of coffee. They traveled to Hawaii for vacation every year and returned to Solvang to celebrate their wedding anniversary. But Christmas was Karen’s favorite—she relished decorating the house, cooking Christmas dinner, and the annual traditions of creating picture and word puzzles for the adults and treasure hunts for the children. Karen will be deeply missed this holiday season, but her traditions will live on, to be shared with even more grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Karen Schaaf Swick is survived by her brother John, her sons Michael and Shawn, her stepchildren Tammy, Kimberly, Todd, Jeffrey, Bridget, and Yeric, five nieces and nephews, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. 

Karen’s surviving family extends their utmost gratitude to the nurses and caregivers of Vista Del Mar Villas in Pasadena for their care and compassion delivered over the last two and a half years.Karen was cremated, and her remains are interred at Forest Lawn next to her husband of 48 years, James Swick. A memorial service was held at Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Memorial Park on Saturday, January 21, at 3pm.


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