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Karen Horobin

Karen Dawn Horobin

Sept. 24, 1953 – Dec. 18, 2018

Karen Horobin, a longtime Davis resident and CSU Sacramento professor, died peacefully in her home under the care of her loved ones and the Yolo Hospice. After a determined fight, she succumbed on December 18, 2018, to an aggressive brain cancer first diagnosed after emergency surgery on July 28, 2017. She was 65 years old.

Karen (aka “Kaz” or “Kazie”) was born to a working class family in the English West Midlands, growing up in Tipton, in the historic “Black Country” of the Industrial Revolution. Her English father was an auto mechanic, her Irish mother a homemaker, neither of whom had finished high school.

Despite showing early intellectual promise, Karen disliked her schooling, and hence dropped out at age 15. She then took a series of odd jobs at venues ranging from a Wolverhampton casino to an Ibiza beach resort. Not until about a decade later did she restart her education back in the West Midlands, quickly getting her high school equivalency and then, only three years later, graduating with first-class honors in psychology from the University of Birmingham.

Soon after, Karen entered the graduate program in psychology at the University of California, Davis, where she earned her Ph.D. at age 33 – the roughly 10 “gap years” notwithstanding. By then she had already married Norman Wohlers and given birth to the first of their two children, necessitating that she start making a good income fast. After temporary instruction appointments at UC Davis, she eventually obtained a ladder-track position in the Department of Child Development within the School of Education at “Sac State.” There she advanced rapidly to full professor.

At CSUS, Karen had a distinguished career in both university teaching (most notably her popular yet demanding “History of Childhood” course) and campus service (such as chairing her department through some difficult times). But her most remarkable professional achievements concerned community service, especially developing programs in early childhood education, for which she won numerous awards, from local to statewide. It was not unknown for Karen to convert prize money associated with an award into a charitable contribution to a community program to which she was most strongly committed – and even matching the donation from her own coffers.

Karen absolutely loved to travel, whether with members of her English family, her California family, or some combination together. She would thus seek adventures throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Australia, and beyond. In fact, to celebrate her retirement from CSUS in 2016, she and her husband took a highly memorable trans-Canadian train trip from Vancouver BC to Halifax NS – starting out with the spectacular Rocky Mountaineer. And yet, almost paradoxically, Karen immensely enjoyed working in her backyard garden, attending to the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that would end up in various family meals.

Karen is survived by her two children, Cady Mara Horobin-Wohlers and Brice William Horobin-Wohlers, her step-daughter Sabrina Dee Simonton and husband Dean Keith Simonton, plus her family back in England, including her older sister Iris Ryan and two nieces Lisa Barnes and Nicola Todd, who all flew in for final visits after her glioblastoma multiforme diagnosis was revealed. Karen was widely loved and will be deeply missed.

Karen’s long-term treatment was overseen at the UCSF Brain Tumor Center, which conducts clinical trials aiming to better treat if not outright beat this disease. Persons interested in aiding that endeavor can make contributions at https://braintumorcenter.ucsf.edu/make-gift

To plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Karen Horobin, please visit our flower store.


I have only just heard of Karens passing. I started Nursery (kindergarten) with Karen and went through school alongside her. She was always one of the brightest in class. I have fond memories of her.

Chris Knott Nov 28 2021 12:00 AM

Karen was a good friend to me in the late 70s and early 80s, when she was just starting her academic career. I am eternally grateful to her for her kindness and support. She was intelligent, resilient, caring and fun. I am saddened to hear, recently, of this loss. I will always remember her as a lovely person. I am glad that she went on to such a fine and worthy career, and found loving friends and family in the USA.

Andy Barlow Dec 17 2019 12:00 AM

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Lisa and rachel remembering fairport convention Sep 25 2019 12:00 AM

Dear Cady, Brice, Dean, and Bree, Im so very sorry for your unimaginable loss. May all your wonderful memories of Karen bring you peace and comfort at this difficult time. Our loving thoughts are with your family. I believe people come into our lives for a reason, and Im truly fortunate to have had Karen as my amazing sister-in-law and loving wife to my brother, Dean. I will always remember Karen as beautiful woman on the inside and out. She was loving, genuine, smart, and real. She was thoughtful, kind, sincere, and very funny. I will miss her kind eyes and warm smile that would light up a room. I loved hearing her talk about my brother, her children, her job, and just about anything else happening in the world. She in return would ask how my life was going and the lives of my children and would be genuinely supportive. I wish our visits together could have been more often, and I regret letting time and distance be an excuse. Karens beautiful spirit will forever be remembered by our family. Im incredibly grateful that Karen and her children entered my life and the life of my brother. In deepest sympathy, Kelly

Kelly Jo Ticsay Dec 31 2018 12:00 AM

Unfortunately, people such as Karen are too nice for the world to lose, but we have to lose them anyway.

Roury Dawn (Simonton) Miller Dec 29 2018 12:00 AM

Dear Dean:I am so sorry for your loss. Bon courage to you and your family in this difficult time.Sincerely,John Antonakis

John Antonakis Dec 28 2018 12:00 AM

A N D. Karen was fortunate to have you in her life for fifteen years as well Dean !!!

Renee Shortt Dec 27 2018 12:00 AM

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Dean Dec 24 2018 12:00 AM

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Dean Dec 24 2018 12:00 AM

I taught Karen in the 1960s at primary school in Tipton where she was a very bright girl, showing great academic promise and was an enthusiastic member of the school recorder group. Im afraid the photograph isnt very clear but Karen is on the extreme right. I was so sorry to hear of her death at such a young age. As a teacher I dont expect to outlive any of my pupils.

Dorothy Turley Dec 24 2018 12:00 AM

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