Karen Lee Bertocci

June 04, 1961 - January 24, 2021

Obituary For Karen Lee Bertocci

Karen Barlow Bertocci of Raleigh, died at the age of 59 on January 24, 2021 after a two-and-a-half-year journey with Leukemia. She passed away peacefully in her home, surrounded by her loving family and closest friends. Here’s how Karen lived her life, in her own words:

“We can’t control what happens in our lives. However, we do have a choice in our response. Even in the darkest of times, I believe there are always flickers of brilliance. I choose to focus on those. I choose to shine.”

And shine she did. The daughter of a career Army officer, Karen was born in Augsburg, Germany on June 4, 1961 to Don and Bobbie Barlow. She grew up in 10 different places throughout the US and abroad before graduating as a Distinguished Military Graduate, AG Corp, from North Carolina State University’s ROTC program in 1984. She served in the Army for 7 years, achieving the rank of Captain, with assignments in Ft. Lewis, Washington and the US Army Personnel Command in Washington DC. She left the Army in 1990 after receiving an offer she couldn’t refuse from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.

Karen married Jeff Bertocci in 1991 at Fort Meade, Maryland. When sons, Connor and Nick were born, she made the decision to become a full time stay at home mother. In 2004, the Bertocci family relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina where they’ve called home ever since. Connor graduated from The University of North Carolina in 2016 and Nick graduated from North Carolina State in 2018.

Karen saw her cancer more as a journey than a struggle simply because gratitude was at the core of her being. Each experience, good or bad, and each person she encountered no matter his or her walk of life – these were real gifts to Karen. She always thought of others before self; she even made it a point to break free from her bed during a physical low point to rally her tribe in raising $23,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Campaign.

Sure, there were tough moments on her journey with cancer but Karen always bounced back. In doing so, she taught us all her master class in positivity, strength, grace, compassion for self and others and yes, a heartfelt sense of gratitude for her family, her devoted tribe, and the army of medical professionals at the UNC Medical Center Cancer Hospital and MD Anderson in Houston who fought hard to help her overcome cancer.

Karen is survived by her beloved husband, Jeff and sons, Connor and Nick. She is preceded in death by her father, Colonel Donald J. Barlow. She is also survived by her mother, Roberta Barlow (Colin Mason);her sister, Kathy (Greg) Eierman; her brother, Don (Darci) Barlow, nine nieces and nephews and her large and devoted tribe of friends.

Karen would haunt us from her grave if we didn’t acknowledge and thank the amazing doctors and nurses in her care while at MD Anderson in Houston and UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill. UNCMH became her safe space -- a warm and welcoming second home for Karen during her journey. She felt well-cared-for, even loved by some of the staff in her care and for that, she is eternally grateful.

A private service will be held for immediate family on Saturday, January 30, 2021 at 5:00p.m.***Due to COVID-19, we will be LIVE streaming the funeral through YouTube. Please go to Renaissance Funeral Home YouTube Page

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the St. Baldricks Foundation (stbaldricks.org) – an organization focused on conquering childhood cancers.

Karen will be laid to rest near her father at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Her light shined bright on this earth. May it shine even brighter in heaven.

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Karen was the breath of life we always hear about but seldom see. Karen is always with Jeff and her Boys.
- Joshua Cronin
Memories of Karen will always make me smile. She is but a breath away and makes heaven even sweeter. I love you and thank you for the joy you brought into our lives.
- Judy Shaw
Holding Karen's entire family in prayer. Her example of strength and courage will continue to inspire and be her continued gift for us all.
- Alissa D Turner
Remembering fondly Karen's amazing ability to light up any room with her smiling eyes and brilliant smile. One of the gifted folks that made everyone in her presence feel loved and appreciated. Karen will live on in the smiles of her Tribe!
- Bill Cattley
Sending my heartfelt condolences to all of Karen's family and friends. Thoughts and prayers are with each of you at this time.
- Ana Dorevich
Sending much love to Jeff, Connor, Nick and the entire extended family. Karen will always have a very special place in our hearts. We will remember her shining example of kindness, compassion, perseverance and humor. She will live on in as we "Choose to Shine" as she would want us too. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Love, Charlene and Bruce Smith
- Charlene Rogers
Our condolences to Jeff Nick and Connor and family . From Paula Weiss and family in Pa . Hugs and prayers .
- Paula Weiss
Karen was an amazing person. I feel privileged to have been a part of her life in Columbia, MD.
- Eileen M Foster

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