CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – From the rolling hills of northern Maine, to the West Elk Mountains fringing Crested Butte, Colorado, Karyn Adelman was a child of the earth. Gentle soul, fierce spirit, caring healer, stubborn survivor, Karyn moved through the world on her own terms, flourishing a beautiful smile and a terrific sense of humor.
Karyn passed away at her home September 14, 2018, with her family by her side after a courageous, prolonged journey with cancer. She leaves behind her husband and devoted caregiver, Robb Fessenden and children, Lily and Cedar.
Karyn would tell you that the earth and its open spaces nurtured her spirituality. Born February 22, 1964, Karyn was brought up in the town of Mars Hill, in the heart of potato country in Aroostook County, simply called The County by those intimate with the geography of Maine. Karyn acquired an early work ethic, working on her family’s farm every fall harvesting potatoes. The youngest of six, she was supported by a robust family and the warm hand of a small town.
Dirt as elixir turned to dirt as science when Karyn majored in plant and soil sciences at the University of Vermont, where she traded her alpine skis for telemark boards. After graduation in 1986, her dream was to return to Aroostook and farm organically. When that dream had to be put off, she took a road trip west, landing in Telluride, Colorado, where she embraced the exciting thought of becoming a ski bum, an original Tele Betty. Aroostook County dreams soon turned into Rocky Mountain dreams.
After graduating from the New Mexico Academy of Massage and Advanced Healing Arts in 1989, Karyn settled in Crested Butte. As a licensed massage therapist, she built a healthy practice with many loyal clients. In 1993, she and Robb became traveling partners on life’s path. After several years in Crested Butte, she decided that, although she loved sitting on the bench on Elk Avenue when she wasn’t giving massages or out on a backcountry excursion, it was time to use her brain more.
Seeking a way to empower people to take care of themselves, she and Robb went to Santa Cruz, California, in 1995, to further their education in the healing arts. Karyn attended Five Branches School of Acupuncture and earned a master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine and herbology, while Robb completed a master’s degree in physical therapy. Five years later, they returned at last to Crested Butte and she set up her business, Karyn Adelman Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine. Karyn and Robb were married September 3, 2000, and soon started their family.
The river that ran through it all was her love for the outdoors and the peace and vitality that comes from open spaces. While she ran her business healing people and embraced motherhood, she did her best to find time to feed her passion for the outdoors. When her busy schedule allowed, she relished a powder day, took off on a bike ride or bagged a peak.
Crested Butte became Karyn and Robb’s ideal home, with friends around the corner, kids a walk away from school and potlucks with friends. After so many years of living in town, the Crested Butte community became a vital and necessary support system for the whole family during the last two and a half years while she gracefully dealt with the second stage of her illness.
Karyn’s lasting touchstone in Maine was an island in the middle of Meddybemps Lake, tucked in the far downeast corner of the state near Canada. This is where the Adelman family gathered every summer. From a little girl of four or five, Meddybemps was like a fantasy playland, a safe place, as she described it, to be in nature. Later, when the family acquired a second small island nearby, Karyn, while in her early teens, would canoe to it on her own and sleep there to avoid the noise and craziness that comes with a sprawling family.
“I wanted to hear all that was around me,” she said.
Many years later Robb built a cabin on that island. This became a sanctuary for Karyn and her family – a world of wailing loons, the bald eagle perched in the tree off the porch, the wash of water over rocks, fiery sunsets, the crack of thunderstorms, a quiet solo row across the lake.
Karyn is preceded in death by her mother, Gloria Giggey Adelman. She is survived by her father, Milton S. Adelman; husband, Robb Fessenden; children, Lily and Cedar Fessenden; and five siblings, Hiram Adelman (Brook Merrow) of Bozeman, Montana; Cathy (Alan) Adelman of Malibu, California, and Ashville, North Carolina; Toby Adelman (Tim Brewer) of Mars Hill, Maine; Todd (Kristin) Adelman of Rollinsford, New Hampshire; and Scott (Karen) Adelman of Park City, Utah. She leaves behind many nieces and nephews, including Jake and Nate Adelman; Tucker, Zoe, Satchel, and Deker Adelman; Shy Adelman; Haley and Sophie Adelman.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in Karyn’s name can be made to the following organizations, Living Journeys, P.O. Box 2537, Crested Butte, CO 81224 www.livingjourneys.org; Gunnison Valley Hospice, 120 N. Boulevard Ave., Gunnison, CO 81230; and B’nai Butte, P.O. Box 2014, Crested Butte, CO 81224 www.bnaibutte.org.