Obituaries

Karen Marie (Stone) Austin, 71, Vergennes native

KAREN MARIE (STONE) AUSTIN

WHITEHALL, Mont. — Karen Marie (Stone) Austin passed away at home in Whitehall, Mont., on May 3, 2024, at the age of 71 after a hard-fought battle against cancer.

Karen was born in Burlington, Vt., on Sept. 18, 1952, to Mary Stone (Pollender) and Joseph Stone. She graduated from Vergennes Union High School in Vergennes, Vt., in 1970, after which she worked at Simmonds Precision in Vergennes. She met and later married Lionel Austin in April of 1972.

Karen and Lionel bought the Plainfield Service Center (affectionately called “The Red Store” by locals) in Plainfield, Vt., in 1978 and ran the store together until 1984. In 1991, Karen moved to Whitehall, Mont. with Lionel, and the two operated The Rice Motel. Over the nearly fifteen years that they owned the Rice Motel, Karen and Lionel welcomed friends and family from near and far to share in all the beauty and hunting that Montana had to offer.

In 2016, after several years of fighting late-stage kidney failure, Karen returned to Vermont for a kidney transplant. She faced both her transplant and cancer with an amazing amount of strength and courage, which was facilitated by her husband and caretaker, Lionel. The transplant not only gave her new life, it also afforded her the opportunity to get to know her grandchildren, Megan and Eric. She particularly enjoyed catching their basketball games and the Vergennes Booster’s concession stand. Karen made a quick and miraculous recovery after her transplant and returned to Montana, where she was able to live next door to and enjoy time with her granddaughters Madison, Lexie and Charlotte.

Karen was a crafter, making everything from coasters and Christmas tree decorations to painted door stops and wooden stove covers. She was her own worst critic when it came to her crafts and never wanted to make the same thing twice.

Karen leaves behind her husband of 52 years, Lionel Austin of Whitehall, Mont.; her daughter, Carie Tarte and her husband, Jeff Tarte, granddaughter Megan Tarte and grandson Eric Tarte of Vergennes, Vt.; and son Will Austin and his wife Heidi Austin, and granddaughters Madison Austin, Lexie Austin and Charlotte Austin of Whitehall, Mont.  Additionally, she is survived by two brothers, Tom Stone and his wife Linda Stone of Essex Junction, Vt., and Steve Stone and his wife Debbie Stone of Burlington, Vt. Karen was predeceased by her mother, Mary Pollender; father, Joseph Stone; and granddaughter, Allyssa Austin.

She wasn’t a big “hugger” or talker, but she loved and appreciated those that made the extra effort to hug and talk to her. It will come as no surprise to those who knew her that she did not want a funeral service. She is at peace now and likely having a long-overdue visit with her mother. In Karen’s honor, the family would like to encourage you to become an organ donor by going to www.registerme.org/ to help others like Karen enjoy more time with family and friends.◊

 

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