Karen Walton obituary

My mother, Karen Walton, who has died aged 85, loved art and literature, and was passionate about animal welfare, equality and trees. She was loving, creative, intelligent, infuriating and chaotic.

Born in Dulwich, south London, to parents who were also creative – a painter and camouflage artist, Henry Hoyland, and a poet and puppet-maker, Margret (nee Mitchell-Withers) – she had an eccentric childhood with her sister, Rosemary. By the time Karen was 12, both her parents had died of cancer and she was bought up by her aunt.

From Sydenham high school, Karen went to the Central School of Arts and Crafts (now the Central School of Art and Design). In 1959, she met the theatrical producer Richard Walton. They married in 1961, and shared their love for theatre, music and art with wonderful friends, spending late nights enjoying good food and plenty of wine.

I was born in 1963 and my brother, Charlie, three years later. We grew up to the sounds of Bobbie Gentry and the Rolling Stones, with summers spent in Cornwall, walking the coast paths, sailing, surfing and singing to the seals.

After 26 years of marriage, which was later dissolved, Karen struck out alone and retrained as a Tefl teacher. She taught at Chiswick College, west London, as well as tutoring private students for 10 years or more.

She made two beautiful homes, the first in Chiswick; the second a flat overlooking Streatham Common, which was flooded with sunlight and filled with colour, paintings and books. Animal welfare was very important to her; her cats were her greatest companions.

Another enormous passion was trees, and her home overlooking the common was surrounded by them, which brought her great joy.

After discovering she had cancer in early 2021, she chose not to have treatment or share her diagnosis with others. She had enjoyed a wonderful life and wanted to make the most of the time she had left. She lived independently at home until September last year when an unrelated illness led to a respite stay at Birtley House, a care home outside Guildford, in Surrey. It was there, happy and surrounded by beautiful trees, that she chose to spend her last few months.

My mother’s life swung from the reserved to the highly emotional; the predictable to the totally unpredictable; from the joy-filled to deep troughs. She treasured strong friendships that she had nurtured across the decades and displayed great empathy.

Karen is survived by Charlie and me, her grandchildren, Fin and Orla, and her niece, Katherine.