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Karen F. Briggs, 79

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - Karen F. Briggs, 79, of North Adams, died Sunday, October 20, 2019.

She was born to the late Arthur and Rose Lorraine (Murray) VanSteemburg, on January 27, 1940, in North Adams. She attended schools in North Adams and graduated from Drury High School in 1958. She was married to the late William (Poppy) Gardner in 2013.

Karen passed away peacefully surrounded by her amazing family and some of her dearest friends at Berkshire Medical Center due to congestive heart failure.

Karen lost both her parents at a very young age. She became the matriarch of the VanSteemburg family. She and her four brothers and sisters worked as a unit to keep their family together. Karen loved her brothers and sisters and their spouses and children: Jane and William Bryce of North Adams, Kurt and Virginia (Jinx Wall) VanSteemburg of Loudonville, New York, Peter and Cynthia (Cellana) VanSteemburg of North Adams and Susan and Marty Oliveri of Clarksburg; and many nieces and nephews all of whom she loved dearly.

Her biggest loves were her two surviving daughters — Jennifer A.B. Ering and her husband Timothy of Kingston and Rebecca Briggs-Renaud and her husband Paul (PJ) Renaud of North Adams. As a single mother, she raised her two daughters and taught them to be fierce, strong, independent, kind and generous, just as she lived her life. Karen loved the two men her girls chose as husbands. She felt at peace knowing both of her girls had loving families.

Karen is also survived by three grandsons — Stephan A. Briggs of North Adams and Phineas B.B. Ering, and Sawyer A.
H. Ering of Kingston. She was extremely proud of them and often bragged about their many accomplishments.
Karen always believed that her oldest grandson Stephan was a true miracle due to his severe prematurity and because of that in her eyes he could do no wrong. She was extremely proud of him currently being enrolled at Norwich University. She loved to tell everyone about her middle grandson, Finn, who she believed had the most calm and gentle soul. When it came to her youngest grandson, Sawyer, she loved his funny, quick wit, and his outgoing personality and tenacity. Her Miracle Boy, Gentle Giant, and Little Big Man, as she called them, were the true apples of her eye.

Karen wasn’t a world traveler. She loved being home and sewing, baking, and chatting with her friends. You always knew you could pop in anytime and have a cup of coffee and a conversation with her. She felt better staying close to home in case anyone needed her. Her favorite pastime was reading or doing crossword puzzles. She could have a different book in every room all going at one time. She always said she didn’t need to travel because her books took her where she wanted to go.

Karen loved the little city of North Adams. For the past 23 years, she worked as the senior clerk to the City Assessor. During her lifelong service to the local community, she also worked at Dutch Hill ski resort, Green Mountain Racetrack, Patten Corporation and Properties of America. She loved her co-workers and truly looked at them as extended family.

“Karen was a true force to be reckoned with,” says daughter Rebecca. “She had strong beliefs, she always shot straight from the hip, but at the same time she was always willing to listen. If she loved you, then she would go to the ends of the earth for you and be your greatest protector. She was a magnificent mother and grandmother, a loving wife, a devoted sister, and a loyal friend.”

The Briggs/VanSteemburg family would like to offer their sincere thanks and gratitude to the amazing staff at the Berkshire Medical Center’s 4th floor Step Down unit in Pittsfield. Our deepest appreciation on goes to Dr. Mann and Dr. Quiusky. The family would also like to thank all of the incredible people who have been so attentive and caring to Karen during her final years, including the staff at Berkshire VNA, the incredible group of home health care providers and so many others who helped this chapter of her journey.

Please, in lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Pop Care’s or The Friends of North Adams Public Library.

Funeral notice: Calling hours will be held Friday November 8, 2019, from 4-7 p.m., at Flynn & Dagnoli Funeral Home West Chapels. The burial will be held Saturday, November 9, 2019, at 10 a.m. at Southview Cemetery, with a celebration of life at Bounti-Fare in Adams immediately following at 11 a.m. All are welcome. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit

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My deepest condolences to the family. I was fortunate to have known Karen, her daughters and the rest of the vanSteemburg clan, a very thoughtful and caring family. The obit brought back fond memories of my short time, although impressionable, knowing her. Indeed, she did shoot from the hip.
from: David Peters on: 11-06-2019

Karen was an amazing woman who raised two amazing women. God bless her and her entire family.

from: James Sartorion: 11-06-2019

Karen will be sadly missed, she was sunshine when going into the City Hall, always there to help. My thoughts and prayers to her family, may she Rest In Peace.
from: Dave Emeryon: 11-06-2019

My love and prayers to all of Karen's family. She was a wonderful, lively woman that I admired and was so fortunate to call a friend. Her smile and kindness will live within your hearts always.
from: Cindy Lamoreon: 11-04-2019

Peter and family my condolences to you and your family in the passing of your mom. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Again i am so sorry about your mom passing
from: mathew Cantonion: 11-04-2019

Karen and I worked together at Properties of America and immediately became close friends. She never missed a call to me on my birthday and I never missed hers for over thirty years. I so looked forward to our calls. Karen would fill me in on what was happening in North Adams. She was so proud of her city. That pride was only exceeded by her feelings for her family. She was one of the finest people Iíve ever known. Her passing will leave a large hole in my heart forever. My sincere condolences to her family.
from: Wayne LoPrestoon: 11-04-2019

What a beautiful tribute and she was definitely a force to be reckoned with. My heart goes out to the family! Please take care.
from: Breck Bakeron: 11-04-2019

I fell in love with Karenís personality the day I met her. What a beautiful tribute to such a beautiful soul.
from: Jeff levanos on: 11-03-2019

A wonderful tribute for a much loved woman. My heart goes out to all of you.
from: on: 11-02-2019

Chuck and I are deeply sorry for your loss, Jen and Becky. We loved your mom and especially loved how fiercely she loved you both. We will be in Chicago for Lauren's Parents Weekend and will miss calling hours and services but please, please know you are in our thoughts and prayers.
from: Jane Swifton: 11-02-2019

Such a beautiful and fitting tribute to Karen. She was genuine and real and cared about her people. We could use a lot more like her in the world today. God bless Karen and her family.
from: John Swifton: 11-02-2019

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful lady and friend I truly loved her. I will mis her wit everyday. Soar with angels my friend
from: on: 11-02-2019

Great tribute to a great lady !!
from: Ed and Judy Noelon: 11-02-2019

What a beautifully written tribute and loving remembrance of a beautiful life well lived and amazing lady who will sadly be missed... keeping you all in my prayers in the days ahead feeling the comfort of her love that will surround you always ❤️
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