Deanne “Karla” Ray Zahradka, 68, of Beaufort, died August 22, 2021, at Carteret Health Care, in Morehead City, North Carolina a result of complications due to COVID-19.
Her memorial service will be held 2 p.m., September 11, 2021, at Grace Presbyterian Church in Beaufort.
Internment is planned for 2 p.m., September 18, 2021, at Southlawn Memorial Park in Petersburg, Virginia.
Karla was born on the 8th of December 1952, at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana. She was the third of six daughters born to Bettye June Williams Ray and Louis A.” Gene” Ray. She lived the first five years of her life in Evansville with her parents and, eventually, five other sisters, just down the lane from her paternal grandparents and near many other extended family members. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and great-grandparents were a very large part of Karla’s early life.
In 1957 Gene Ray was employed by the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington, and the family moved to a new suburb near Bellevue, WA, where Karla attended the Woodridge Elementary School. In 1964, the family moved to Issaquah, WA, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where Karla attended Clark Elementary School, Issaquah Junior High and Issaquah High School, graduating in 1971.
There was always lots of music in the family, and Karla played the flute as a girl and teenager, both in the school bands and with the local youth orchestra, and later played English handbells. Her true passion, however, was for horses and all other animals, leading her to become an excellent horse trainer and handler. She received an Associate degree as a Veterinary Technician and worked as a Vet’s assistant in Mt. Vernon, WA, before enlisting in the United States Army in 1973. It was while serving in the Army as a Veterinary Technician in Fort Lee, VA, she came to care for a National Park Service horse named Adam. There at Petersburg National Battlefield Karla met Adam’s assigned Mounted Park Ranger, Jim Zahradka (Jim always considered Adam to be his first Park Service patrol vehicle), who would become her husband of 44 years.
Jim was a U.S. Park Ranger for the National Park Service for many years, and his work enabled him and Karla to live in many beautiful parts of the country; Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota (where their son Nicholas was born in 1986), Everglades National Park, and finally in Cape Lookout National Seashore, Beaufort, NC, which became the young family’s true home. In each of these homes Karla loved to learn as much as possible about the social and natural history and shared it when family and friends visited.
Along the way, Karla received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration/Accounting from Dickinson State University. While being a mother, wife and expert homemaker, Karla also worked part-time as a private Bookkeeper and a self-employed Seamstress. She worked for close to two decades as Sales Administrator for the Marine Division of Gregory Poole Equipment Company in Beaufort. Karla led a life of service, both for groups and on her own: Habitat for Humanity, North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Jr. Sailing Program, church handbell choirs throughout the county, local veterinarians, taking in animals in need of rescue…and for her beloved Grace Presbyterian Church in Beaufort, where she was the Chair of Membership and Clerk of Session. There she also served as bookkeeper, played handbells, and led the church bell choir.
Karla’s family, friends and co-workers enjoyed her creative energy, her wry and mischievous sense of humor and her sparkling smile.
She is survived by her husband, Jim Zahradka (Beaufort), her son, Nicholas Zahradka and daughter-in-law Noel, (Morehead City). She is also survived by her sisters, Kathi Ray and her husband Mike Kelly (Astoria, OR), Karen Ray (New Orleans, LA), Kay Ray (Seattle, WA), Kim Ray and her husband Peter Dammann (Portland, OR), and Krysti Ray and her partner Marty Tunis (Washington, CT); four nieces; one nephew; and four grandnieces. In addition, Karla is survived by her sister-in-law, Janet Zahradka Reiner and her husband Steve Reiner (Mechanicsville VA), and by her mother-in-law, Mary Zahradka (Petersburg VA).
The family is requesting that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Karla’s church, Grace Presbyterian, 2101 Live Oak St., Beaufort, NC 28516.
Family and friends are welcome to submit online condolences at www. mundenfuneralhome.net
Arrangements by Munden Funeral Home & Crematory in Morehead City, NC.