Cover photo for Karen L. Gifford's Obituary
Karen L. Gifford Profile Photo

Karen L. Gifford

d. September 3, 2022

Karen Louise Gifford of Lancaster, PA, left her life on earth on Sept. 3, 2022, at age 69, leaving behind many in the community to mourn her warm, inclusive, and loving nature.

Karen was kind, caring, considerate, compassionate, courageous, and constant – always there for her loved ones. She was a counselor and therapist, and in later years, a caregiver for her mother and her aunt. As an adult she weighed less than 100 pounds, but she was a force to be reckoned with. She overcame many hardships and still found ways to thrive and be happy. She also had a dry wit that was mainly aimed at her brother, Bob, and sister, Carol. She was an anchor for her family and friends – the one who planned, cooked and hosted holidays for them all. Nothing was too big or small to take on if it helped those in need.

As a drug and alcohol counselor in Lancaster County, Karenworked tirelessly to help many achieve and maintain sobriety.She helped found Lancaster’s Narcotics Anonymous (NA) chapter, and continued to be involved throughout her life. She educated people about addiction, emphasizing tolerance and grace. She never hesitated to explain why people who have addictions might slip, but it didn’t mean it was over, just that they had more work to do. Karen had her own practice for a while, and also worked at:   Gate House for Women, Gate House for Men, Blueprints, White Deer Run, and others.

Karen is survived by her life partner Rodney Upsher of Lancaster, son Shannon Jason Gifford, and her grandchildren Indigo, Oliver, and Priya Gifford, of Newark, Delaware. She is also survived by siblings Susan Gifford, recently of Bandon, Oregon; Bob Gifford, married to Christine, Lancaster; and Carol Gifford, married to Daniel Bloom, Lancaster. She will be missed by her nieces and nephews around the country. Karen is predeceased by her parents Ruth Wiley Gifford and Clair Bernard Gifford.

A lifelong Lancaster resident, Karen cared about her city and the world around it. She helped start the neighborhood group,Northeast Neighbors United, and was honored by the City of Lancaster as a Neighbor of the Month. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Karen was a proud Democrat, worked to help Democrats win city elections, and didn’t hesitate to speak with voters about candidates and issues. She was a lifelong member of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Lancaster, serving on the social activities committee. She helped start the JP McCaskey Class of 1970 get-togethers, even though she only attended there for a few years and graduated from Lourdesmont High School in Clarks Summit.

She loved animals – both wild and domesticated. She was the proud Mom of two fur baby cats, Hudson and Isabella, and in earlier years a beloved dog Nijah. She fed squirrels who came to her door to visit. She set up a bird bath and feeders for birds in the backyard. She rescued feral cats in the neighborhood.

She loved tuning in to the live bald eagles’ nest webcam to watch the baby Eaglets grow up.

Karen loved to travel, and visit family and friends. She enjoyed playing slot games in casinos, and looked forward to family reunions in Las Vegas. Karen especially loved the beach; going down the Shore became an annual birthday tradition in early September. She would rent a house in Sea Isle City, N.J., and invite family members and friends to visit. She loved visiting the same beach where her family had vacationed since the late 1960s. In past years, she and Rodney had a camper in Cape May, N.J., and spent many weekends at the beach.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday September 17, 2022, at 11AM, at Otterbein United Methodist Church, 20 E. Clay St., in Lancaster.In lieu of flowers, please contact Carol Gifford at

with special memories of Karen to be shared with her grandchildren.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Karen L. Gifford, please visit our flower store.


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