Published: Monday, November 12, 2012 at 7:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 12, 2012 at 7:40 p.m.
Santa Rosa native Maxine Karlsen died Nov. 3 from kidney cancer at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, surrounded by her two daughters. She was 84.
Karlsen was born Maxine Bohn on Sept. 16, 1928, to Mabel and William Bohn.
Her family has long ties to California and Sonoma County. Her father built many homes in Santa Rosa. And her distant relative Eliza Gregson left behind a memoir that chronicled the family's journey to California, arriving just ahead of the ill-fate Donner Party and building one of the first homes in Sonoma County's Green Valley.
Karlsen primarily grew up in the Roseland neighborhood.
She graduated from Santa Rosa High School and earned a secretarial certification at Burbank Business College.
Karlsen was working at Grace Bros. Brewery when she met Corky Freitas, who drove a truck for the company.
“Dad was just smitten, they just knew,” said their daughter Karen Freitas of Chico.
They married Nov. 19, 1950, at the Church of the Incarnation in downtown Santa Rosa.
By that point, Karlsen was working for the prominent Santa Rosa law firm Spridgen, Moskowitz, Barrett and Achor.
She stopped working around 1953 when her first daughter was born. In between raising two daughters and caring for her father, Karlsen spent considerable time volunteering at schools and her church.
She and her daughters “made 40 cakes a day for two weeks in a row” for the annual Episcopal Tea Room at the Sonoma County Fair. She taught preschool for several years and joined just about any parent group, Freitas said.
Each year, Karlsen led a team of volunteers going door-to-door to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“Whenever there was a function, she was there with fresh baked cookies,” Freitas said.
Their home near Doyle Park was a revolving door to children and friends in the neighborhood, particularly her good friend Lois DelQuerra and her sons.
“The coffee pot was always on,” daughter Kathy Farrell of Santa Rosa said.
Karlsen was known as “Grandma Max” to more than her own three grandchildren.
During Grandparents Day celebrations at St. Rose Catholic School in Santa Rosa, she attended with her grandchildren but always would visit the classrooms of their friends who didn't have grandparents nearby and whom she came to consider family.
Karlsen was a devoted volunteer for the cancer society long before the disease touched her life. In 1993, her husband died from the disease
Later, Karlsen moved to Oakmont and met retired Sonoma State University professor Bjorn Karlsen. They married in 2001.
She was diagnosed with kidney cancer seven years ago and bravely battled the illness, her daughters said.
In addition to her daughters and husband, Karlsen is survived by her sister, Harriet Martini of Chico.
Private services will be held.
Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 1451 Guerneville, Road, Santa Rosa 95403 or the Hanna Boys Center, P.O. Box 100, Sonoma 95476.
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