Vail Daily obituary: Karen Olson Smith, 1938-2016 |

Vail Daily obituary: Karen Olson Smith, 1938-2016

Karen Olson Smith (“Gammie” to so many) died Oct. 1, 2016. Karen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Kenneth and Valborg (Tanner) Olson and was raised in South Bend, Indiana. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in political science.

In 1959, she married her soul mate, Gordon Smith. They lived in several cities before settling in Cleveland, Ohio, where they raised their two daughters. Karen was active in the Junior League of Cleveland, launching programs such as the Key Concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra and setting up the Cleveland Classic Tennis Championship tournaments. She spent her weekends working as a volunteer ski patroller in Pennsylvania and New York. Outside of her volunteer work and actively raising her daughters, Karen and her friend Kathy Manos opened their own clothing store called Lewis and Clark Outfitters. This was especially venturesome as computers were just entering the work place. They taught themselves the necessary computer skills and managed a very large inventory on floppy disks. After a successful venture in retail, Karen began a career working in the federal court system for Judge John M. Manos in downtown Cleveland. In 1993, Karen and Gordie relocated to the Vail Valley as their first of seven grandchildren was born.

Karen joined the work force at the Beaver Creek Children’s Center and was actively involved in the lives of her grandchildren, chasing them around to sporting events and offering her home as a sanctuary.

Karen was passionate about, and committed to, supporting education. She continued her volunteer work at the Vail Christian Academy. She faithfully showed up to read with elementary and junior high students for eight years. Her footprints are evident on their hearts today. Many have moved on to college, but fondly call on “Gammie” when in town.

Karen and Gordie recently moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. They quickly paved new trails following their Wyoming grandchildren to sporting events and enjoying new adventures. Karen’s passion for family continued until she passed. Karen was devoted to her family and loved family gatherings. She is well known for her hospitality and love. Her Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners often seated more than 25 guests. Her authentic smile and sincere heart expanded her family circle to include so many friends.

She leaves her beloved husband of 57 years, Gordon; her daughters Kristin (David Baker) of Edwards, and Gretchen (Bryan Norman) of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming; and her grandchildren Summers, Paris, Canyon and Kass Baker and Wyatt, Tucker, and Savannah Norman. She leaves behind her sister, Christine Robb, of Winnetka, Illinois.

Karen’s legacy of love, that permeated all that she intentionally did with her time, will serve to inspire all those who knew her. In the words of one of her favorite artists, John Denver, “Poems, prayers and promises and things that we believe in, how sweet it is to love someone, how right is it to care.” Gammie cared with everything she had until her very last day.

Please send condolences to: Gordon Smith, 6966 Horse Soldier Road, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82001

In lieu of flowers and in honor of Karen’s desire for all young people to have opportunities, please consider making a contribution to the Tuition Angel Fund at Vail Christian High School. You can mail your gift to VCHS, Development Office, 31621 U.S. Highway 6, Edwards, CO 81632 or you can donate online at:, click on the “Donate Now” button and select “Tuition Angel Fund,” in any amount.

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