On Sunday, October 25, a celebration of life was held for Karen Juckas in a beautiful field at Juckas Stables on Route 302 in Pine Bush. Juckas owned and operated the stables for over 55 years and during that time taught many to ride, trained wranglers, and touched lives of all ages. A teacher for well over 30 years, she also impacted the minds and memories of hundreds of students in the Pine Bush district.
Pam Juckas, Karen’s daughter, as well as her three grandchildren: Onon, Andrea, and Shanga, all greeted guests and organized the celebration to begin with a horseshow. About a dozen riders, including Onon, participated in an entertaining exhibition of talent and skill, sure to have been approved by Karen, and enjoyed by those in attendance.
Shanga and Andrea sang, “Coming for to Carry me Home,” an African hymn selected because of Karen’s love for the song. The two young ladies gave a heartfelt and beautifully executed rendition and invited everyone to join in the last verse.
Brenda Otto and Ellen Quimby of the Pine Bush Area Chamber of Commerce both privately shared kind memories of Karen. “She was always very helpful, and happily participated in everything and we had a few mixers here,” said Otto.
“I also had her as a teacher at Crispell,” shared Quimby, “and she pushed me, challenged me, and was so proud of me and the work we did together through the Chamber. She was on the Board from about 2009 – 2014 and she will very much be missed.”
When asked, “What will you miss about your grandmother,” Juckas’ granddaughters answered, “Her smile, her voice,” said Andrea and Shanga responded, “My grandmother taught me how to put on lipstick and told me to always blot it with paper. One of the reasons this lesson will always stay with me is that some people would think it is so out of character and that she was not a dress up person.”
A small group of teachers reminisced among themselves. Fred Glass, a co-worker for over 30 years recalled with a smile that Juckas’ plan books, “weren’t always up to snuff, but she was very well liked and very respected by her colleagues. I also remember she was very devoted to the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program - she was very compassionate about it and helping families.”
Also a fellow teacher, Kathleen Streisfeld spoke of how many people knew Juckas loved her horses and said, “she kept them so well, they always looked beautiful. They were her passion – she loved people and animals. Her wranglers would stay year after year and generations of families would come here to ride. She had a calm loving nature and I remember how much trouble she had deciding to retire (from teaching). I told her, ‘Go ahead. It’s ok to retire,’ and she didn’t want to give her kids up.”
The first to formally speak during the public tribute portion of the celebration, Pam spoke from the heart rather than a prepared statement and said, “It was June 19 when she passed and I still have not figured out what to say. She raised me to be independent. This place has been a staple and she was just amazing. She taught me so many things: love, perseverance, resilience, believing in people, and I am grateful. And grateful to the wranglers for keeping it going. It’s a part of her that keeps going.”
Jean Buckley spoke next and among her homage was the statement, “Karen never said no. She was always up for everything.”
Proof of this belief could be seen in the wonderful range of memories the family provided in the form of photographs and mementos. While frequently pictured with horses, friends, and family, Juckas also posed for a calendar to raise money for breast cancer with a group of women, all strategically placed in a cornfield, wearing little more than witch hats and brooms, smiling that million watt smile.
Those who knew her will remember her well. Honoring each of the chapters of the life of Karen Juckas would take time and care as she lived vivaciously, fully, and with great zest.