Karen Veraldi Burd was born on Nov. 8, 1946 in Bozeman. Her parents, Louis and Marion Erickson Veraldi, were partners in the Flaming Arrow Dude Ranch up Bridger Canyon, where Karen spent the first weeks of her life. While she was still a baby, the family moved to Billings, where Karen grew up as the oldest of four daughters.
Our big sister Karen was beautiful, bright and quixotic. She was fun and funny, a master of irreverent parodies. She was charming and sociable. Karen always knew the hit songs and the newest dance steps and how to fix her hair in the latest style. An outstanding student in math and foreign languages, Karen left a trail of broken hearts during her teenage years at Lincoln Junior High, Billings Senior High, and Eastern Montana College (now MSU-Billings), where she majored in history. Taking education courses to earn a teaching certificate, Karen found her calling. She had a gift for building rapport with her students, especially the ones who were having trouble in school.
After graduation from college in 1970, Karen found her first teaching job in Vona, a little town in eastern Colorado. There she met and married Rick Burd. Karen continued to teach while Rick did ranch work and finished college. After he began a career in agricultural banking, they bought a home in Nunn, Colorado, north of Greeley, with lots of land for Karen’s horses, dogs, and cats. Karen loved animals, and they loved her back. She thought she could save every stray. After she and Rick divorced in 1994, Karen stayed in the house in Nunn. She retired in 2009 after almost 40 years as a teacher and media specialist in the Colorado public schools. She spent her retirement caring for her pets.
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In April, Karen died at home in Nunn at the age of 72. She was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her sisters, Anne, Lorna, and Donna; by her brother-in-law, Michael Van Dyk; and by her nephews, Nathan and Daniel Van Dyk.
Karen was naturally talented at almost anything she tried, from artwork and music to cooking and sewing. However, she was sometimes so perfectionistic that she failed to finish the things she started. Her penmanship was a work of art, but she rarely got to the end of a letter. If a flourish in the salutation was crooked, she had to start over until it was just right. One beautifully complicated dress with elaborate trim that she sewed in high school hung in her closet for years waiting only to be hemmed. It was meticulously pressed, as only Karen could press things. She never wore it. She never did get around to stitching the hems of a pair of tapestry bell bottoms she crafted in college, either, and had to pin them up with safety pins whenever she wore those pants.
It’s been 50 years since we all lived together in Billings. But there are times that if we turn around quickly, we can still see back to yesterday, when our big sister Karen wore those gorgeous bell bottoms, pressed to perfection, with the hems carefully pinned up. She would be all aglow, getting ready for an evening out with friends, her thick dark hair shining and her laughter echoing down the hallway.