Estes, Karen Jo

November 21, 1948 - December 16, 2016

Karen Jo Estes, age 68, Dallas resident, died peacefully on December 16, 2016.   Karen was born November 21, 1948, in Dimmitt, Texas, to Genevieve Juliu Estes and Robert Edward Estes. She attended Dimmitt and Lubbock schools, graduated from Bovina High School and followed by graduation from college at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  Karen was a gifted artist, teacher and social worker before she found her real passion as advocate and leader during the AIDS crisis in the 80’s and 90’s.  She served in various leadership roles including interim co-director of the AIDS Resource Center, now Resource Center, Dallas.

Karen Estes was a tireless straight ally and advocate for the LGBT community.  She first became involved when former Dallas Gay Alliance (now DGLA), president Bill Nelson ran for Dallas City council in 1986. She became more active following Nelson’s subsequent election loss. During Nelson’s, and his partner Terry Tebedo’s illnesses, she became an even stronger advocate for HIV issues and volunteered for the DGA. Karen Estes was instrumental in the renovation of the Center’s campus at 2701 Reagan (now the Center’s Simmons Health campus) after its purchase from the Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas (now Cathedral of Hope). Working with architects and contractors, she managed the construction schedule and transitioned from a volunteer position to paid Center staff during John Thomas’ tenure as executive director. Following Thomas’ departure in 1997, Karen Estes became a co-director of the Center with Jamie Schield. (Excerpts from article by the Resource Center.)

Karen is survived by a legion of friends, the value of whom is immeasurable. Family survivors include sister Kathy Estes Johnstone and husband Stephen, sister Ka Estes Cotter and husband L.L., sister Betty Conklin Johnson, nephews Walter Johnstone and Brandon Cotter, and niece Leslie Cotter McCabe, and seven great nieces and nephews. We mourn her loss, but are thankful for her comfort.

The family wishes to kindly thank the nursing staff and doctors of Medical Center of Plano.

Burial will be in Dimmitt, Texas. A private service will be held in early 2017.  Memorials for Karen Estes may be made to the Resource Center Dallas or to a charity of your choice.

Arrangements are under the direction of
ARIA Cremation Service and Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75252


3 replies on “Estes, Karen Jo”

Frances Shull says:

I met Karen when I started to work for the State in the late 1970s. She was a great mentor and friend for many years. I lost contact with her but have thought about her a million times. My heart melted when I saw the name and age in the Dallas Morning news today. RIP Karen.


Was I ever shocked being told of the passing of Karen. A true friend to all it seems she would always be there for all of us.

Harry Nixon says:

I too knew Karen from our time as caseworkers with the state in the 70’s – we were part of a group that ran and partied together. One of the most delightful people I ever knew, RIP Karen.

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