School 09

Karen Luella Guilfoyle

July 30, 2023 ~ November 25, 2023

Karen Guilfoyle Obituary

Karen Luella Shields Guilfoyle was born in Sandpoint Idaho, July 30th, 1939, to the parents of Carl and Stella Shields of Clark Fork, Idaho.

She loved learning and it showed throughout her years in school, graduating from Clark Fork High School as valedictorian, receiving Highest Honors from Eastern Washington State College, completing her master’s in education at Eastern Washington University, and then finally earning her PhD in education from the University of Arizona in 1988. She returned north to begin work at the University of Idaho, eventually attaining an Associate Professor position, specializing in qualitative research and teaching at both the undergraduate and doctoral levels. Karen had an enormous impact on her many students and was awarded both an outstanding faculty award and the ‘Athena Woman of the Year’ award from the University of Idaho.  She retired in 2010, after a career in education that included teaching students in every grade, and that spanned teaching in a one room Idaho schoolhouse to university lecture halls.

She leaves behind a large and loving family including her husband Michael Guilfoyle, daughters Debra Derbyshire, Dena Payne, & Diana Jordt, siblings Denny Shields, Becky Holt, & John Shields, 11 grandchildren, 9 great grandchildren, and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.  Her sister Sharon Brixen and daughter Dorie Hurt proceeded her in death.  Family was the most important part of Karen’s life. As she said herself in an autobiographical note many years ago, “I couldn’t have done any of it without my family. The values I learned sitting in the little white house in Clark Fork, listening to Grandma Lillie, Aunt Margaret, and Grandma Annie, helped me as I pursued my goals, and formed relationships with people. Their gift of laughter has aided me in all that I do. The love they shared with all, set an example to follow.”  Karen carried this tradition forward, instilling in her daughters and grandchildren the importance of family, of being there for one another, and in the true friendships that form amongst the love and laughter of family gatherings. She lived life to the fullest, dividing her time between her Heron, Montana and Genesee, Idaho homes. She built strong communities and friendships, sharing her love of gardening, cooking, canning, traveling, and reading with all.  She traded recipes and book recommendations until her last day. She will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Short’s Funeral Chapel of Moscow and condolences may be left at

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