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Saturday, February 25, 2023
10:00 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)
Karen Gustas died on February 19, 2023 after multiple illnesses, including rare complications from immunotherapy. She always loved science and medical books and was thrilled to learn on her deathbed that her tissue samples might lead to new medical discoveries. “Get the papers they write!” she said to her family.
Karen spent most of the last month of her life at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston’s West End, the same hospital where she was born to Olga and Peter Kotap on March 16, 1946. She spent the formative years of her childhood in the West End, as anyone who talked to her for five minutes would find out. “It had 78 nationalities and every income level, and we all got along,” she said. Her stories about life in the West End were funny, and so full of rich detail she made listeners feel like they were there.
When the neighborhood was torn down beginning in 1958, she moved with her mother to Dorchester, where she graduated from the Jeremiah E. Burke High School with plans of becoming an artist. Her mother, who had taken up astrology, predicted that Karen would marry someone from Europe and then live overseas.
While in high school, Karen began dating Stoughton resident Herman “Gus” Gustas. Asked why she fell in love with him, she said, “Because he made me laugh.” It was only after months of dating that she learned he’d come to America from Europe as a war refugee just a few years earlier. They married in 1967. Gus was drafted and shipped to Germany; Karen soon followed, as her mother shouted, “I was right!” Karen described the two years in Germany as some of the best of her life. She learned to cook, made lifelong friends, and drove the slowest Volkswagen on the Autobahn.
On their return, they had their one daughter Nicole. Karen quickly decided to become her own boss. She pioneered “working from home” in the mid-1970s when she moved a 200 pound keypunch machine into the spare bedroom. She quickly grew her client base and added other employees, actively working to hire people with diverse backgrounds and people with disabilities. The business grew too large for her home, and she took on a partner that she would eventually sell Integrated Data Systems to. But work did not consume Karen. She was an avid reader, often reading two or more books per week. She was a science fiction fan and was proud to have grown up in the same neighborhood as Leonard Nimoy. “His dad cut Gus’s hair!” she often told people. She also was known for her excellent taste, exceptional decorating skills and creative ways of reusing materials (now known as “upcycling”).
But the entrepreneurial itch never left her. She launched a second business, Statistical Management Services, which performed employee, patient and customer satisfaction surveys.
In her spare time, she and Gus built the home of their dreams, and with her keen attention to detail she made sure every single piece was perfect. Unfortunately, their dreams were cut short when Gus died of cancer at the age of 59. She retired a few years later and eventually moved to Cape Cod, where she painted until arthritis made it impossible to do so. Politically somewhat to the left of Bernie Sanders, she was a news junkie right up to her death, frequently asking hospital visitors for updates on the latest goings on in Washington, DC.
Karen is survived by her daughter Nicole Gustas and Nicole’s partner Michael Rainey, her sister-in-law Mary Ensins, her brother-in-law Paul Gustas, her cousins Salvatore Degregorio, Sandra Botbol and Kathy Murphy, and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held at the Farley Funeral Home, 358 Park Street (Rt. 27), Stoughton on Saturday, February 25th from 10-11 AM, followed by a Funeral Service at 11 AM. Funeral service live stream information is as follows:
Time: Feb 25, 2023 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Meeting ID: 867 2824 4589
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-massachusetts) or Mercy Corps (https://www.mercycorps.org/donate). If you feel compelled to send flowers instead of a donation, please remember that Karen loathed lilies and loved bright blossoms.