OBITUARY - Karen Joyce WALTERS
Born 3rd July 1959 Melbourne
Died 1st April 2003 Melbourne
It was 1.30 in the afternoon when Jeremy heard that unmistakable knock that usually spells trouble. Opening the door, he was confronted by 2 police officers.
"Are you Jeremy Dixon?"
"Do you know Karen Walters?"
"Yes, before you go on I'd like to inform you that I know my rights."
"We don't care about that. We're here to tell you that Karen WALTERS was found dead in Barkly Square a short time ago."
In the space of a few seconds, the certainties of Jeremy's life had evaporated.
Karen Joyce Walters was born to her 17-year-old mother, Billie Smith, and her 16-year-old father, Billie Smith's boyfriend Doug Wainright, on the 3rd July 1959 in Melbourne. She was put up for adoption after her father lost, at the races, the money they had put aside for their wedding. She was adopted by Garnett Walters and Marie Jenkins who she always regarded as her real parents. She met her biological father and her half brothers and sisters in her twenties. She grew up in Ivanhoe with her adopted brother, attended the local primary school and spent a short time at Ivanhoe Girls Grammar followed by a few years of Latrobe High School. During a troubled adolescence, she spent a number of spells in a psychiatric hospital. Karen began an apprenticeship as a florist although she had always wanted to be a doctor.
She gave birth to her first son, Christopher, in 1981. That same year she began a linguistic course at Latrobe University. As a teen, she had belonged to the Collingwood branch of the Labor Party. At Latrobe University, she threw herself into radical politics, alternating between socialist and anarchist groups, and became a member of the anarcho-feminist collective based in Collingwood in the early 1980s. Jeremy first met her at a picket line at the Latrobe student union in 1984. During the latter half of the 1980s, she described herself as a lesbian separatist and was active in lesbian separatist circles in Melbourne. In 1987, she had a second child, Elizabeth (Polly). In the late 1980s, she began experimenting with heroin "the cool thing" to do in some of the circles she found herself moving in. She moved back to her parents' home in the early 1990s to nurse her mother during her final illness. It was during this period that she found herself addicted to heroin and fought a 10-year battle to kick the habit, finally getting off the methadone program in July 2002.
Karen began a long-lasting relationship with Jeremy Dixon in 1994. Although troubled by severe asthma, she was keen to have further children. They had 2 children: Euryeic who is now 7, and Ridi who has just turned 2. She was active in the vivaids movement as well as the anti war movement. On the eve of her death, she and Jeremy made a "Stop The War Machine" banner for the anti war demonstration in Melbourne on the 31st of March.
In the latter part of her life, Karen worked in a call centre. She was so disgusted by the conditions she and her fellow workers had to endure that she joined the union and actively campaigned to have other call centre workers join. For her troubles, she lost her job.
It's relatively easy to list the milestones in a person life; it's much more difficult to gain an understanding of the person themselves. Karen flirted with religion. At one point, she thought about becoming a Buddhist nun, feeling she could easily embrace the central tenets of Buddhist philosophy. She was a troubled soul battling her own internal demons whilst extending a helping hand to those around her. She believed in universal and unconditional love, and being a genuine pacifist, had contempt for physical violence. She strongly believed that death does not have to part us from those we love. Jeremy remembers her as a social person, glowing with a gin and tonic in her hands, moving among the people she liked.
LEST YOU FORGET - FOR KAREN WALTERS
I remember your long fingers,
Your elegance straight from the heart,
Smoking cigarettes and telling truths,
Because you know them first hand,
And that time I caught your crying in the bedroom.
You smiled like an actress
And didn't miss a line I asked you then.
What is the choice? And you said
Sometimes you can forget for seconds at a time
Your last words to me were:
Andrea you have to take care of yourself,
A message that contained the truth
Three days later you are dead
For how long did you forget?
- By Andrea SHERWOOD
Karen Joyce Walters is survived by her partner Jeremy, their two children, Ridi and Euryeic, and her two other children, Polly and Christopher.
Obituary by Joe Toscano, originally published in the Anarchist Age Weekly Review No.546, Wed, 14 May 2003.