Karen Joy Minish passed away late Saturday evening, December 19, 2020 at home with her partner of 30 years, John Goulart beside her, as well as her loving sisters Jayne, Dianne and Noreen. For the past two years Karen “danced” her way through her cancer diagnosis and treatment. The essence of the dance was graceful, joyful and full of beauty, and this was the way she carried herself through the entire experience. Karen touched so many lives throughout the Bow Valley and beyond with her limitless talents, wonderful smile, her thoughtful and caring manner, and her infectious sense of humor. She truly was one of a kind.
Karen grew up in small town Manitoba and that friendliness, generosity and easy laughter was the foundation of who she was. She was born in Gilbert Plains, August 22nd, 1953, growing up in Swan River and the Swan Valley which she loved forever, including the memorable experiences with cousins, family and friends. She moved to Winnipeg, Vancouver and eventually found her way to the Rocky Mountains and Banff, which she made her home. She met her partner John at the Banff Centre in the fall of 1989.
Karen’s many talents included her beautiful and powerful voice, with which she sang opera, oratorio, Broadway and popular music. She was the featured soloist in many Bow Valley Chorus concerts over the past 20 years. Many of these performances can be seen on YouTube. She shared an ARIA award in 2000 with her partner John Goulart for best Specialty Artist, for the album Malaguena. Karen also performed in many musicals and theatrical plays to critical acclaim in many of the theatres in Alberta, BC and across the country. As a member of the community, Karen also started the Mineral Spirits Choir at the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital. She was its music director for over 20 years. She also directed and produced countless ‘Mini Musicals’ for Bow Valley Chorus Variety Night where members of BVC would be featured in such shows as Grease, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, and Guys and Dolls, just to name a few. Karen also formed The Castle Carollers quartet which performed at Christmas time for Banff Lake Louise Tourism, The Town of Banff, The Banff Springs Hotel, The Rimrock, The Lodge at Kananaskis, and throughout downtown Banff and Canmore. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Drama from the University of Winnipeg. She also studied Theatre Arts, Craft & Design at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Karen got her start in Drama/Musicals at Rainbow Stage & Hollow mug Dinner Theatre in Winnipeg. More recently, Karen also began directing Theatre and Opera. She assistant directed Carmen and La Traviatafor Edmonton Opera. She also produced and performed the one act opera Suor Angelica for Canmore’s ArtsPeak festival, and also directed the Dinner Theatre Show for Cornerstone Theatre “Oh Canada Eh”.
Karen was a true artist in every sense of the word. Her joyful personality would fill a room, and there would always be laughter. She was also a visual artist and held many shows and exhibitions at the Banff Public Library, Elevation Gallery, Paintbox Lodge and Canmore Hospital. These shows were always “events” that would always include her wonderful cakes, much wine and fun and laughter. Karen also became the curator of Art for the Heart at Canmore Hospital and helped mentor and support local artists throughout the past few years. In recent years, Karen’s spiritual life was illuminated with the Sufi teachings of Inayat and Hidyat Khan. Her Sufi practice was integral to her life and brought her much joy and fulfillment. Hidyat Khan named her “Sitara” (Bright Star). This was the essence of Karen and not a more appropriate name was ever given by Hidyat to one of his followers.
Karen is bereaved by the love of her life, John Goulart, by her sisters: Jayne and husband Bev Leadbeater, Diane and husband Larry Hicks, Noreen and husband Reinhard Maier, beloved nieces and nephews Shayne, Jeffrey, Ryley and Mitchell and their families, as well as many cousins. She joins her parents Elmer and Bonita (Bonnie) Minish. Karen is also dearly missed by her many dear friends, respected and cherished colleagues locally and nationally, her audiences far and wide, and everyone who has marvelled at her paintings, and enjoyed her bountiful kitchen and her ringing laugh and her great sense of humour. Whether is it sitting around a campfire in a wool sweater or standing on stage in a silk gown, we all miss our Bright Star. Karen’s star now shines brightly in the heavens. Her voice sings with the angels and her art illuminates us all. Thank you Sitara. This world is a better place because of you.
A memorial service is being planned in early June 2021 to be held at Central Park Gazebo in Banff. Details to follow