Karen Elaine (Foster) Atkinson

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Karen Elaine Foster, oldest of two daughters of Dorothy Jones and Hubert Foster, was born February 13, 1945, in Austin, Texas. On November 26, 1965, she married Leland Thomas Nichols (born August 13, 1940, in Tyler, Texas). Karen and Tom had five children all born in Houston: Natalie Sue Nichols, born June 22, 1966; Alan Shane Nichols, born August 26, 1968; Michael Lance Nichols, born January 19, 1971; Holly Christine Nichols, born March 21, 1980; and Benjamin Brian Nichols, born April 14, 1983.

Karen and Tom were divorced around 1997, and Karen married Robert Atkinson. They live in Houston.

Note: Story from 1996 Arthur Jones Family Scrapbook. Since Karen has had another whole life since then, she probably will want to update this.

Karen was the first of two children born to Dorothy Jones and Hubert Foster in Austin, Texas. The family moved to Tyler, Texas, when Karen was almost three, and her sister, Kathy, was only a few months old. Hubert was a Vocational Counselor for the State Commission for the Blind; he managed the office in Tyler. Dorothy was a teacher in Austin, and resumed her career in Tyler when Karen entered kindergarten in 1950. Karen lived in the same house at 520 East Rosedale until she graduated from junior college at age 20.

At Tyler Junior College, Karen made the drill team, and as an “Apache Belle” enjoyed trips to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Blue/Gray Game in Alabama, and several trips to perform at the Cotton Bowl for the Dallas Cowboys’ games. Her second year in college, Karen began working as a secretary at an auto repair shop where she met Tom Nichols. Tom had just come back from two years on an aircraft carrier in the Navy, and was also attending Tyler Junior College. After graduation from Tyler Junior College, in 1964, with an Associate in Arts degree, Karen left home for the first time to attend the University of Houston. Tom, along with some of his other Tyler friends, entered the University of Houston that fall. Karen and Tom continued dating, and were married on November 26, 1965.

Three children, Natalie, Shane, and Lance, were born to the Nichols between 1966 and 1971. The parents continued to work full time and attend classes at night, Tom majoring in Chemical Engineering and Karen in Interior Design. The growing family made school difficult, and Karen became a full time homemaker in 1968. Tom continued to work in printing, which he had learned from his family’s printing business in Tyler. In 1976, after the supposedly “last” child entered kindergarten, the decision was made to purchase the company from Tom’s father and step-mother, who were retiring, and move it to Houston. With the addition of some new equipment, Vantage Printing was created. Karen and the children were recruited, and soon learned about hard work and long hours.

As the business grew, so did the family.  In 1980, Holly was born, and Brian in 1983. The employees and customers became accustomed to baby beds in the bindery, and toys in the office.

The smell of ink must have stimulated their intellect, or perhaps they were eager to escape; in any case, all the children excelled in academics. Natalie attended the University of Houston, was in the honors sorority her freshman year, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Shane accepted a full academic scholarship from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, double majoring in math and electrical engineering. Lance was accepted at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, on a scholarship, and after four and a half rigorous years (six months spent in Europe), graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Three down; two to go!

Natalie married Chester Simmons, a ceramicist, and works as a jewelry designer in New Orleans, Louisiana. Shane married Jewel Chang, a classmate from Vanderbilt. After four years working as an electrical engineer, Shane entered law school at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In summer 1996 was employed as a patent lawyer for a large Atlanta law firm. His wife, Jewel, a physician, served her residency in pathology at Emory University Hospital. Lance moved to the beautiful northwest (Portland, Oregon), where he enjoys the outdoors, camping, and hiking. He does clerical work to pay the bills, and does freelance artwork as well as sculpting.

In November of 1994, Karen began working four days a week at a civil engineering firm. Good benefits and appreciative workmates make the job enjoyable. Holly and Brian were in Spring Branch schools in a good “gifted and talented” program. Holly was a junior at Northbrook High School, and Brian was in the eighth grade at Spring Woods Middle School in fall 1996.

(added by Gil)

Karen has been married to Robert Atkinson since ____ and they are faithful attendees at reunions, usually doing the dogs and burgers for the pre-arrival crowd. Robert is a civil engineer in the Houston area and frequently assists with questions at the Valley related to his field. They come to the Valley in an RV which you will see parked near the dining hall.


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