Chatburn mum-of-five and restaurant owner dies (56)

PROUD LADY: Karen Walker, who died last week aged 56. (s)
PROUD LADY: Karen Walker, who died last week aged 56. (s)

A well-known active community member, restaurant owner and mother of five has died after a two-year fight with cancer.

Karen Walker (56) was the co-proprietor of Greendale restaurant in Chatburn with her husband, John, who she had been married to for almost 30 years.

One of four children, Karen was born at Bramley Meade Hospital in Whalley, spending her early years living on Whalley Road in Clitheroe.

After living in Darwen and attending Darwen Grammar School, she moved back to Clitheroe in her teenage years and carried on her education at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School.

Creatively minded, Karen loved writing poems, reading and passing on her creative talents to her family. An animal lover, she kept many at Greendale, including her two beloved pet poodles, pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits and ponies.

After taking over the restaurant in 1984, the Walker family lived happily at Greendale, running it as a bed and breakfast and also catering for many happy family occasions, including countless weddings, Christenings and birthdays.

Karen was always keen to go the extra mile to make sure the occasion was a success for the families involved, going out of her way to arrange flowers and make celebration cakes. She regularly received thanks and gratitude from her many happy customers and made a number of lifelong friends in the process.

She always said: “There are no strangers at Greendale, just friends we haven’t met yet.”

Actively involved in both the Downham and Chatburn communities, Karen arranged flowers for Downham Church and volunteered at both Downham Pre-school and Chatburn school, where she helped out in cooking classes, trips to the library and listening to reading.

Nursing was a major part of Karen’s life and her career started when she became a cadet nurse at Blackburn hospital aged 16. She went on to complete her nurse’s training at Calderstones in Whalley and continued to work there as a rehabilitation nurse until 1987.

After becoming the manager of Manor House in Chatburn in 1998, Karen worked exceedingly hard to grow the business from the 12-bed residential home it was then to today’s award winning 50-bed registered nursing home.

She dedicated a large part of her life to learning and undertaking new qualifications and training. She supported her team at Manor House and helped over 90 staff to gain certificates, NVQ qualifications and even nursing degrees. She always made sure the whole team felt special and valued throughout her time there.

Another of Karen’s proudest achievements was the running of the baton twirling majorettes group sponsored by the Royal British Legion in Clitheroe, which almost 50 local children attended for weekly practice and performed at village fêtes, open days, the town’s Torchlight procession and even appeared on television. She ploughed lots of energy into the group and gave up her time weekly and at weekends to see the troupe develop and hone their skills.

Karen’s foremost priority was always her family. Her five children and nine grandchildren were her pride and joy and she was a devoted grandmother. She loved to travel and went on many family holidays. As a lifelong Disney fan, Florida and California were particular favourites and even when she was ill, she managed a trip to Euro Disney with 18 members of her extended family, including all her grandchildren. She is also survived by her parents Pauline and George Gowers.

Patriotic, dedicated, hard-working, tough and fair are some of the words that have been used to describe Karen by her family. They wish to thank all the staff at Clitheroe Health Centre, the Rosemere Centre and Blackburn, Burnley and Preston hospitals as well as Clitheroe district nurses, Marie Curie and Macmillan Cancer Care for all the help they gave to Karen in the last weeks of her life.

A very proud woman, Karen fought her illness to the end with the help of her family and many friends and a funeral will be held today (Thursday) at noon at Christ Church, Chatburn, and then on to Greendale for a celebration of her life and the sharing of happy memories.