Grandmother, Stateville guard accepted fate she ‘asked for’
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News July 15, 2012 4:48PM
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:31AM
When Karen Peterson, formerly of Joliet, heard her grandson Alex Cartwright of Morrison had been struck by lightning as he was leaving school, she cried out to God, “Don’t you take that boy! Leave him here and take me!”
Alex is continuing to make progress with his recovery. Karen was 55 when she died of cancer on June 19.
When Karen first learned of her diagnosis, she remembered her plea for Alex and said, “Well, I did ask for it.”
Her gift of life did not end there. Before her death, Karen donated her quarter horses, Crystal and Gift, to an equestrian therapy program, Whoa, at Double G Arena in Sterling.
“My mom was going to use her horses to give Alex horse therapy, but he still had a long road ahead of him,” said Karen’s daughter, Tricia Sortino of Morrison. “She had a great sense of pride knowing she was giving them to a program that would help other children with their disabilities.”
A lifelong animal lover, Karen was so devoted to her German shepherd that she cremated his remains so they could be buried with her. Karen even kept two tanks of “local Walmart fish.” Family, however, always came first.
Karen, a single mom, worked 25 years as a sergeant at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill to raise her four children. Tricia recalls Karen refusing overtime because she had she needed to be home and later being disciplined at work for it.
“My mom was a very tough person and she made sacrifices for us,” said Karen’s daughter Diane Williams of Morrison, Alex’s mother. “She taught us to be strong and independent.”
After Karen retired, she moved to Morrison to be closer to her daughters. When tragedy simultaneously struck Tricia’s and Diane’s families, Karen helped them both.
For the first two months after Alex’s accident, Karen spent several consecutive days in the hospital so Diane could care for her other children. Then they would swap places.
“When my husband died, she was at the hospital with Alex, but after I called her, she asked, ‘Do you need me?’ and immediately came home,” Tricia said.
During Alex’s recovery, Karen developed a relationship with God, accepted Christ, joined Emmanuel Reformed Church in Morrison and faithfully attended each week. Through her commitment, Karen led her family to faith.
“My mom didn’t want to suffer, so she prayed God to take her if she ever became a burden to her family,” Tricia said. “All her prayers were answered.”
Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-467-5249 or email@example.com.