On Aug. 30, 1971, the musician, Sandy Sanderson, and hairdresser, Patti Knapton Sanderson, were thrilled to give birth to their first child, Karen Joann Sanderson in Whitefish. Karen’s childhood was idyllic and complete when brother Logan came along. Being a fifth generation Montanan from the Flathead Valley, Karen was surrounded by the love of a large extended family. Karen graduated from Flathead High School in 1989 and obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree from University of Montana in 1993. Karen’s family and many lifelong friends made while in high school, college, the Kappa Alpha Theta house and beyond are left to mourn the sudden loss of dear Karen. She passed on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, after a short bout of lung cancer.
Karen’s career life started with a backpack, Eurail pass and her friend, Denise. Their trip through Europe had many highlights, but there was one thing that stood out to Karen, which was shopping the European markets for delectable foods and wine. At the time, she had seen nothing like it in Montana. Ever since that first trip abroad, Karen developed a deep passion for and built a career around great food, wine and travel. She fostered that passion while living in Brussels, Seattle, Spain and Portland.
While in Portland, Karen met the handsome and fun pilot, Adrian Strutz, and a romance quickly ensued. At this time, Karen was the national sales manager for Elk Cove Winery, traveling from Portland to America’s top restaurants. She used the suitcase method to pack wine around to share with those fortunate enough to join her for a meal and a few glasses of wine.
Out of Karen’s relationship with Adrian came their beautiful daughter, Alisa Evelyn Sanderson Strutz. Shortly after Alisa’s birth, Karen and Adrian moved to Kalispell to be closer to her family, especially her mother who had been diagnosed with M.S. and whom had desperately wanted a grandchild. Karen fulfilled her mother’s wishes and was always a devoted daughter. Together, Adrian, Karen and Alisa immensely enjoyed their Kalispell community, their tight knit neighborhood, and the natural beauty of the Flathead and Glacier Park.
In Kalispell, Karen worked for George’s Distributing selling wine, and in 2012, Karen opened Brix Bottleshop. This labor of love brought Karen’s love of beer, wine and delicious foods to downtown Kalispell. Karen knew how to seek out the very best and took great pleasure in sharing her selections with customers, friends and family. Karen became an outspoken advocate for downtown Kalispell, joining the Business Improvement District board to work for improvements. Karen also taught wine classes at Flathead Valley Community College and was a contributing writer for 406 Magazine and Montana Woman, writing about her passions. In 2017, Karen decided it was time to take Alisa to Europe. Adrian was also working there at the time and Karen and Alisa traveled to England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany, meeting up with Adrian when they could. They stayed in beautiful chateaus and visited wineries and cheese factories, with Karen bringing her knowledge of European wines and food back to Brix. Alisa will be forever changed by this extensive trip with her mom.
Karen is survived by her daughter, Alisa; her life partner, Adrian; father, Sandy Sanderson; and brother, Logan Sanderson. She leaves behind multiple loving friends, aunts, uncles and cousins.
She was preceded in death by her mother, Patti.
A celebration of Karen’s life will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish. A college fund is being established for Alisa. Please contact a family member for details.
Her family wants to especially thank Team K., who provided the most extraordinary love and support through Karen’s recent illness.