Karen Emilie Kirchgasser, 44, of Washington, DC, died at The Washington Home hospice in Washington, September 13, 2012 of metastatic breast cancer.
Born in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, she grew up in Potsdam, NY and graduated from Potsdam Central High School in 1985.
She graduated from Syracuse University in 1989 with a double major in Communications and Political Science and received a Master of International Policy and Practice in 2005 from George Washington University. While in college, her public service career began with an internship in the office of NY State Assemblyman Zell Miller. Following her graduation she worked as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) and then as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV). For the last two years of the Clinton Administration she was a deputy press secretary to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, travelling with the Secretary to dozens of countries including the historic trip to North Korea in 2000, the first such trip by a U.S. Secretary of State. Following the Clinton Administration she became a senior vice president at the public relations firm GMMB in Georgetown, where she worked on domestic and global health campaigns, travelling to Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. In 2006 she fulfilled a life-long dream when she was commissioned to the U.S. Foreign Service and was serving in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow when her cancer was discovered in 2008. In 2009-10, she served with distinction as executive secretary for the U.S. delegation to the New START nuclear disarmament treaty negotiations with Russia in Geneva. At the time of her death she had completed Polish language training for assignment to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. She is survived by her father, William Kirchgasser, of Potsdam, NY; mother Marjorie Hess and stepfather Rudy Talaber of Northampton, MA; sister Alison Kirchgasser and sister-in-law Sally DeGan of Winchester, MA; extended family in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York; and countless friends in the Washington, DC area and all over the world.
Donations in her memory may be given to the Sandstoner Foundation of Potsdam Central School, P.O. Box 264, Potsdam, New York 13676 and to the Washington Humane Society, 7319 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20012. A memorial service will be held later this fall in the DC area.