Determined athlete from Greensburg undaunted by illness
As a gifted athlete in high school, college and beyond, Karen Altman developed a strong drive and determination to match her dedication to others.
“She was a big-time fighter, and it had a lot to do with her athletic career, no doubt about it,” said her husband of 38 years, Warren Altman.
Karen Altman of Greensburg died Friday, July 10, 2015, after years of battling cancer. She was 62.
She was born Feb. 13, 1953, a daughter of Joseph Spence of Stone Harbor, N.J., and the late Helen Price Spence.
A spinal cord tumor discovered in 1991 limited Mrs. Altman’s mobility, eventually restricting her to a motorized wheelchair, but never dampening her spirit.
“At my cousin Laura’s wedding a few years back, my mother was in her mobilized wheelchair at that point but still decided she was going to get on the dance floor with it,” her son, David, said. “She got herself out there and danced the best she could. She probably danced more than I did, actually. That pretty much sums up everything about her.”
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 but remained upbeat, determined and optimistic during her treatment.
“It caused a lot of issues, but she never gave up,” her husband said. “She fought it to the end.”
Mrs. Altman was a multi-sport athlete at Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, Montgomery County, excelling at field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. She met her husband at West Virginia Wesleyan University, where she captained the school’s field hockey team while earning degrees in physical education and history.
“I think we met more because of our love of sports,” Warren Altman said. “We always went to the games together and that sort of thing. We graduated in ’75 and we were married June 4, 1977.”
Mrs. Altman worked as a substitute teacher in the Greater Latrobe and Blairsville-Saltsburg school districts, then earned an accounting degree from the University of Pittsburgh and started an accounting business.
She enjoyed golfing and skiing, working as office manager for Chestnut Ridge golf course near Blairsville and making frequent ski trips with her family. When not on the golf course during the summers, Mrs. Altman sought out the sand and water at the beach.
“She loved the beach,” her husband said. “Her parents had a beach house in Avalon, N.J. We went there all the time. We’d go fishing and do whatever. We spent a lot of time down there.”
Mrs. Altman was an active member of Christ’s Church in Greensburg, running the preschool program for years in the 1980s and early 1990s. She enjoyed quilting, gardening and antiques.
“She always took care of family first,” her husband said. “She was just a generally all-around nice woman. I don’t think she had an enemy in the world.”
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Altman is survived by a son, David J. Altman of Philadelphia; two sisters, Suzanne Spence of Memphis, Tenn., and Jodie Levenson of Malvern; and two sisters-in-law, Judy Drescher and husband, David Lindstrom, and Karen and Jack Gressing.
A memorial service for Mrs. Altman will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Christ’s Church, 145 N. Main St., Greensburg. A reception will follow in the church fellowship hall. Memorial donations may be made to the Magee-Womens Cancer Care Center, 300 Halket St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213. For online condolences, visit BarnhartFuneralHome.com.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or [email protected].