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COREA and THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Karen Sjostrom Hedger, 54, died Feb. 19, 2011, in The Villages, Fla., after a lifelong battle with diabetes.

She was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and grew up in Auburn. She graduated from Edward Little High School in 1974 and the University of Maine, Orono, in 1978. She made Down East Maine her home since attending the University of Maine, Orono, and recently began wintering in The Villages, Fla. Karen spent her adult life as a speech/language pathologist. Her passion was to offer integrated services to children and their families, empowering children through communication and encouraging families to be teachers, advocates and supporters of their children. In 1994 she started Downeast Therapy Associates with her good friend, Sara Pierce, providing speech pathology, physical therapy and occupational therapy services to hundreds of underserved children in Down East Maine. In 2002 she helped co-found Children, Families and Communities, Inc. and its programs, DTA Center for Learning & Growing, Lodestar and Good Ideas. Karen was a lifetime learner. She knew from the experiences of her life there is a strong mind body connection regarding true health. She immersed herself in learning more traditional and non-traditional modalities. She sought to integrate these traditional and alternative health practices to the people she served and helped. She was an active member of Twin City Council of United Commercial Travelers with her husband, Robert Hedger and her brother, Michael Sjostrom, following in the footsteps of her dearly departed parents, Dave and Peggy Sjostrom, until declining health precluded her active participation. Life was never easy for Karen. Diabetes and all it’s complications exacted a toll that would have caused most people to give up years ago, but not Karen! She possessed an incredibly indomitable spirit and energy that was infectious to all she encountered. She was the most positive person anyone lucky enough to call her a friend, sibling, wife, aunt, stepmother, grandmother, practitioner, patient family member, healthcare worker, fellow dialysis patient and even casual acquaintances could ever hope to find. She inspired everyone she met with her warmth, wisdom, vitality and a completely unflappable zest for life. She possessed the gift of being truly thankful for each day she woke up. Words are too small to the task of describing how much she will be missed by all who know and love her. Comfort, however, can be given to those she touched by the memories we all hold in our hearts and minds. Her passing is but a sad chapter in what was nothing short of a blessed life. There is comfort also in the image of her soaring the heavens untethered by the constraints of the illness that took her far too early from all she touched.

Karen is survived by her husband of 22 years, Robert Hedger of Corea and The Villages, Fla.; her brother, Mike Sjostrom of Corea and The Villages, Fla.; her three sisters, Mary Ellen Sjostrom of Lewiston, Vicki Sjostrom of Auburn and Tina Manley of North Yarmouth; four stepsons, Matthew Hedger of Cheyenne, Wyo., Adam Hedger of Orlando, Fla., Douglas Hedger of Northport, N.Y., and Stephen Hedger of Washington, D.C.; a stepdaughter, Sarah Jane English of Hyde Park, N.Y.; five grandchildren, countless nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews; and her beloved dog, Charlie.

There will be a celebration of Karen’s life 2 p.m. April 9 at The Fireside Inn, Auburn. Please come share your remembrances, photos, laugher, tears and hugs with some of the many people that Karen’s brilliant, but alas too short life, touched so deeply. There will be an internment service and a celebration of Karen’s life in Down East Maine at an undetermined date early this summer.

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