SAD LOSS: Karen Coyle.
SAD LOSS: Karen Coyle.

Gap in so many lives

KAREN Coyle's rich, throaty laugh could be heard rippling from one end of Lismore's LightnUp lantern workshop to the other.

Karen had her own special place in the middle of the shed, where she would craft and decorate amazing lanterns to be paraded in Lismore and elsewhere.

The much-loved Lismore artist died of cancer last Wednesday, September 26. Her family was with her at her bedside in Lismore Base Hospital.

After a 20-year career in Sydney as a teacher's aide, Karen and her family moved to Goonellabah in 2004.

She soon found her way to the lantern workshop and started work as a volunteer.

"Her first big lantern was the May Queen," Jyllie recalled. "From when she first came she found something that she had an absolute, natural talent for and we all loved her.

"Karen became our lead artist. As well as making lanterns, she also constructed backdrops for the Lantern Parade's fiery finale.

"If Karen made a commitment to do something, she would do it. Even when earlier this year she was clearly not well, she carried on. We all thought she had the flu."

Jyllie said that this year, Karen made a beautiful camel lantern for Afghani refugee families in Queensland celebrating World Refugee Day. In previous years she had made other monumental lanterns for refugee groups.

"Karen made and painted some of the big musical instruments we had at Bluesfest over the years, the saxophone and the accordion. At first she was just making the lanterns, but when we realised her prodigious talents as a painter, she got lumbered with doing a lot of our painting too!"

Jyllie said she was devastated at the loss of her dear, feisty friend.

"We had spent a lot of time together - we'd worked, travelled and played together. Karen was a huge personality who leaves a huge hole, not just in my personal life but in the life of all the LightnUp crew," she said.

Karen's funeral was held in Lismore on Tuesday.

Her daughter Lauren told The Echo: "It was a beautiful event. Everyone wore lovely colours, so it was like a rainbow.

"Mum would have loved it.

"There was such a dynamic mix of people, which was so like Mum, who could mix with anyone. And the flowers were stunning - all her favourites.

"It was a really beautiful send-off by all people she loved and cared about, and who loved her."

Karen Coyle is survived by her husband Tom and daughters Rebecca, Justine and Laurel.

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