Karen Sue Swafford, 77, of Rayville, died Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, surrounded by her loving family.

Karen was born on July 5, 1942, on her family’s century farm, north of Rayville, the daughter of Dean and Ethel F. (Gulley) Swafford.  She was united in marriage to Carl Junior Swafford of Richmond on June 30, 1959; he preceded her in death on March 1, 2010.

Survivors include: son, Kenton Dean Swafford of Richmond; daughter, Carla Sue (Rick) Young of Flowery Branch, Georgia; three grandchildren, Jill (Nathan) Friends, Caleb (Cory) Rumbaugh and Benjamin Rumbaugh; six great-grandchildren, Kali Friends, Neva Friends, Carlie Friends, Lane Rumbaugh, Noah Dean Rumbaugh and Rhett Rumbaugh; brother, Richard (Dixie) Swafford of Rayville; two nieces, Staci (Dale) Maddux and Cindy (Todd) Scott; and a nephew, Reason (Jacki) Swafford.

She was preceded in death by her parents and husband.

Karen was reared and educated in the area of her birth, attending grade school in Rayville, and high school in Richmond.

She worked as a teacher’s aide for special needs children. Karen had always been an advocate for special needs children in the area. Karen was instrumental in starting the state school in Richmond for special education of youth, where she worked for many years, until it closed.  She then went to work as a teacher’s aide at Maple Valley State School in Kansas City, from which she retired. Karen drove the special needs bus for many years and served as an aide on the bus.

She was one of the original grassroots organizers of the Ideal Industries Sheltered Workshop. Karen and Carl were instrumental from the very beginning. Karen was an original founding board member of the Ray County Board of Services for the Developmentally Disabled, which formed in 1984. Karen served on the board as secretary for many years, until she had her stroke. They then made her an honorary member forever for her lifetime work for children with special needs.

Karen was a member of the Old Union Christian Union Church, near Lawson, where she was an active member and served on the Missionary Board. She enjoyed international travel with her husband and friends, traveling to Italy, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Israel and Alaska. Karen was also an avid gardener.

The family suggests memorial contributions be made to Richmond Ideal Industries. They can be left at or mailed to Thurman Funeral Home, 507 E. Main Street-P.O. Box 190, Richmond, MO 64085.

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, at Old Union Christian Union Church, near Lawson. Visitation will be held from 5 p.m to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at Thurman Funeral Home in Richmond.  Burial will be in Crowley Cemetery, near Rayville. 

Please share your memories of Karen by visiting www.thurmanfuneralhome.com. 

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