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Karen (Potter) Shawley

October 21, 2022 | 4 comments

Karen “Potter” Shawley, 81, of French Island, passed away on Friday, October 14th surrounded by her daughters after a brief but courageous battle with cancer. She was born in Platteville, WI to William and Maxine Potter on April 10th, 1941 (along with her identical twin sister, Sharon, with whom she shared a special unbreakable bond with).

She married Bob Shawley on September 2nd, 1961. Bob and Karen had a fun loving, entertaining, and enduring relationship which was the cornerstone of their family. Their love was so strong that they passed away within months of each other. Together they had four children who they remained extremely close to throughout life.

Above all things, Karen put her family first. She loved her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws, extended family, and close family friends unconditionally and fiercely. Karen had a knack for connecting with people – she had a unique energy, presence, and sense of humor that allowed people to show up authentically with her. She accepted everyone where they were at and made space for people to feel heard.

Karen enjoyed a simple (but full) life, and she was a creature of habit – she loved journaling about life (especially funny stories about the family), drinking coffee 24/7, being a night owl, documenting EVERYTHING through pictures and video, watching and reading mysteries, doodling, eating pasta, popcorn shrimp, putting one-liners on Facebook, dropping off goodies for the grandkids, exclaiming “oh my garsh!”, trying to group text, and checking in on her people. She also developed a love for travel later in life and made many international trips after retiring.

Karen was preceded in death by her husband Bob; son Edward; parents William Potter and Maxine and Glen Irish; siblings Judy Thomas, Kay Godlewski, Jeannine Reynolds, and David Irish. She is survived by her three daughters: Shannon Paludi (Pablo), Wendy Freitag (Chris), and Susan Shawley (Lisa Josvai); bonus daughter, Amy Sanwick (Jeff),  nine grandchildren: Miranda Bott (Ryan), Brandon Freitag (Carrie), Jory Stall, Eli Shawley, Kasey Miller (Jason), Sydney Engen (Joe), Kinsey Shepherd (Blake), Makayla and Addison Sanwick; and twelve great-grandchildren:  Athena, Henry, Lillian, Maxwell, Theo, Keenan, Reese, Benson, Walker, Quinn, Otis, and Mae; siblings, Sharon (Duke) Geng, Tim (Lori) Irish, Mike (Terry) Irish, and Dan (Mary) Irish; close friend, Patty Kendhammer, and numerous other loved ones who counted Karen as part of their circle.

Through life’s many struggles (including 4 battles with cancer), Karen remained steadfast in overcoming obstacles and finding joy and humor in all circumstances. Even in her final days, she continued to be “tougher than boiled owl” as her husband Bobby would have described her, and found moments of joy with her family. Karen’s presence, infectious laugh, birthday song voicemails, which she never missed sending, and her “okay hun – I love ya” Norwegian goodbyes will be missed beyond measure. In her memory, her family asks that her legacy live on through action: enjoying and accepting people as they are, loving them unconditionally, and finding joy and humor through all of life’s chapters.

An open house Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, October 29th at Fox Hollow Banquet Hall between 1pm-5pm (with a short service and slideshow at 2pm). All are welcome to come and share a story in her honor. Condolences may be sent to the C/O Susan Shawley at 1710 Lakeshore Dr, La Crosse, WI 54603.



  1. Carol &Fred Strigun

    Our prayers and thoughts go out to your family. May God Bless you and your family during this difficult time


    She never missed my birthday to call and sing to me. My birthday is next week so it will be difficult since I won’t get the call this year. I will miss those phone calls and the many other calls when I talked with her. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to pray with her over the past month.

  3. Kimberly Cileli

    Love to all of you. May God bless. Loved Karen very much.
    Ginny Mutschler

  4. Doug Huggett

    Just a note to offer condolences to all the family. The celebration of life event and this obituary helped me fill in the gaps of the wonderful life Karen had despite many trials. There were so many good memories to hold on to.
    My memories are mostly from the early years when Maxine and Glen brought two families together, and then bound them together when Tim and Mike completed the family as one! Karen, Sharon, Dan and I were all members of OHS 1960. Genuine is how I would describe Karen, and I know that she and Bobby passed so many good characteristics on to you all and those who came in contact with them. My belief is that there has been a grand ruining happening with all the loved ones who have gone before.🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻


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