December 1, 1940 - March 9, 2021
Karen was born in Elk City, Oklahoma to Bucilla Belle (Britton) and Leeman Eugene Roles, and was the oldest of 5 siblings. Graduating in 1958 from Wichita West High School excelling in arts, she pursued jobs in the jewelry and dental industries. She married Dean Allyn Darling 0n August 20th, 1961 and began her life of travel living in Topeka, KS, Las Vegas, NV, Udhailiyah, Saudi Arabia, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, Mountain Home, AR and her final years in Manhattan, KS.
In Las Vegas, Karen and Dean shared a love of horses, dogs, music and kids, giving birth to all her children in Nevada. Karen trained Brittany Spaniels after rescuing her first from the pound. They participated in field trials and hunting for upland game birds. Eventually her first dog became the first AKC registered grand champion. Karen was a founding and active member of the Southern Nevada Bird Dog Club traveling to field trials in NV, CA and AZ.
Karen was active in her children’s school activities, PTO, 4 H, and local club sports. Halloween costumes were her specialty. None of the kids knew what a store-bought costume was, usually she upcycled and repurposed things from the home. Raising her children in the desert, they grew up on a steady diet of American Bandstand, Soul Train, Dark Shadows, scary movies and chores.
In April 1978, the family moved internationally to Udhailiyah, Saudi Arabia. Karen became the first Woman’s Club President in the Aramco Camp and worked in the Aramco Information Center as the camp “Welcome Lady.” She also served as a liaison with the commissary facility. In 1981 Karen and Dean moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia where she lived until retirement in 1991. She became aware of US Military Service Men in the region who were unable to take shore leave during the Tanker War in the Persian Gulf (1981-1988). After consulting with the US Consulate Attaché and the Saudi Government, she was granted permission to organize and help foster-host all servicemen in the fleet to local Aramco homes. She constructed a Sailor’s-to-dinner program so all Sailors, Airmen, Army and Marines could come into local homes for dinner, fellowship, calls to home and relaxation.
Karen loved to host parties, dress up, cook and entertain. She rarely knew a stranger, was always quick to buy toys for kids, offer help to those in need and find homes for stray pets. She became an avid scuba diver and snorkeler and enrolled her children in diving lessons, a passion that continues on in her daughter’s family.
After leaving overseas and returning state side, Karen struggled with her purpose and a sense of belonging. In her later years, Karen battled with mental health issues, dementia and maintaining a healthy balance. Her children fought to get her help within the system and in her final year can attest that she was surrounded by loved ones, knew God’s grace, made peace and felt safe and loved.
Karen is survived by her siblings; brother Gene Roles (Karolyn), sisters Hope Goodman, Teresa Meier (Al) and Gwen Ward. Four children; Michael Darling, Phil Darling (Tina) grandchildren Halee and Hunter, Dina Clark (Barry) grandchildren Nicholas and Nathan, and Derrick Darling (Kathryn) grandchildren Karl and Grace.
A memorial service is planned graveside Saturday July 24 th at 10:30 a.m. Sunrise Cemetery, 2901 Stagg Hill Road, Manhattan Kansas for family and friends.
Online condolences may be left for the family through the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home website at www.ymlfuneralhome.com.