Long-time volleyball leagure director honored
Otsego co-ed volleyball players were able to honor the program’s long-term director prior to her Christmas Day passing.
Karen Newell had participated in the district’s community education adult volleyball league for more than 35 years, directing it for approximately 15 years.
“She just enjoyed seeing the people,” said her husband, Warren Newell. “There was a period of time when they were trying to get rid of the program because it wasn’t bringing in that much money.
“She started running it because she was determined to keep it going and she did.”
The couple began playing in the league while Warren was teaching at Otsego Public Schools.
“I was there one evening and saw people playing and thought, ‘Oh, we could get into this,’” he said.
Jim Beebe has been helping Karen run the program for the last several years and has played volleyball with her for more than 30 years.
“She came to me and said she couldn’t do it anymore,” he said.
Karen had been fighting a rare form of bone marrow cancer for more than 10 years and had been attending the league in a wheelchair.
“She hadn’t played in years but she enjoyed everyone and wanted to be part of it and make sure we had a place to play,” said Beebe.
Warren said while Karen enjoyed playing, his wife was far from a skilled player.
“Her best talent was she stayed out of the way of the good players,” he joked.
He said he and Karen formerly participated in volleyball tournaments throughout southwest Michigan and often did very well.
“People asked how we always won,” he said. “We surrounded ourselves with good players.”
The couple’s daughter, however, was a good player, playing throughout high school and college.
Warren said while their daughter was playing, both of their interests in the sport increased.
“Even after she couldn’t play, she kept going,” he said. “We live in Scotts. It was a long drive, but she wanted to go see everyone.”
Beebe said on Karen’s final day with the league—Tuesday, Dec. 16— they honored her with a plaque, signed volleyball, flowers and a card.
Warren said, “They had a really nice ceremony honoring her the last night. They even gave me a bottle of champagne for running her back and forth and helping her set up.”
Beebe said he knew Karen’s health was deteriorating when she decided to quit the league, but he didn’t think her death would come that fast.
“She is going to be missed,” he said.