The friends of Karen Michelle Graham are not surprised that she is being remembered for her heroism, bravery and kindness.
Graham passed away unexpectedly at the age of 53 after helping rescue two people from a rip tide current in Fort Morgan, Ala., on Aug. 29.
Readers of the Collierville Herald-Independent recently voted Graham the 2020 Woman of the Year.
Friends remember Graham, a wife and mother of two, as a kind and giving person.
“The community will remember Karen as someone who could always be counted on for a helping hand, a carpool, a fundraiser, anything anyone needed,” said friend Denise Jack. “She was always willing to help.
“Karen was just a firm believer that if someone needed help, anything was possible,” she continued. “She never thought about what was impossible. She only thought about what was possible.”
Friend Julie Bassett said that Graham, a Memphis native, gave the “ultimate sacrifice” this summer when she joined a large group of beach goers to form a human chain when swimmers were seen struggling in rough water.
When the chain broke, Graham was swept away.
“Karen gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Bassett said. “She gave her own life to save two women in distress.”
Bassett said that Graham often organized can drives within a large friend group.
“She worked at the Collierville United Methodist Church pumpkin patch,” she said. “She hosted Young Life countless times in her home. Everything she did was with a smile, never a complaint. She lived for pleasing others.
“She loved her family and friends with all her heart,” Bassett continued. “She genuinely cared about every human. She sacrificed her life because of this beautiful gift. There will never be another Karen Michelle Stover Graham!”
Graham was an avid runner and tennis player, especially enjoying athletic activities with her friends that would get her outdoors. Her most recent hobby included biking down the Greenway with anyone who wanted to join. She was a generous and giving woman who loved making memories with her family, planning ladies trips, and spending time with her great group of friends. Graham was a member of the Collierville United Methodist Church, often volunteering and donating to help the Collierville Food Pantry and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
In donating her organs and tissue, it is estimated that Graham has posthumously helped more than 100 people.
Jack said that Graham was a “kind, loving, fun-natured person who loved her family and cherished her friends.”
“She lived out loud, loved her girls’ trips to Nashville and to the beach,” she recalled. “She loved going to football games. She loved spending time with all of her friends going to Live at the Garden, concerts on the Town Square, summer weekends at Pickwick Lake, Fall Breaks at the beach, and anything else where her friends were going. She loved planning all those outings and making sure everyone felt welcomed and included.
“Karen’s lasting legacy will always be the love she shared with her husband, Craig, her two children, Carter and Carlie,” Jack added. “And her spirit of giving and doing for others. Karen is missed greatly among those who knew her and especially by me — she was a great best friend that I’ll miss forever.”
When asked where Graham got her altruistic nature and bravery from, Bassett responded, “God.”
“I don’t think it is something she learned. I think she was born that way,” she said. “She just loved to give and to help whomever and wherever. There were not any hesitations. Everything she did came from the heart.”