Family pays tribute to happy daughter

HAPPINESS was in her blood.Karen Bye had severe learning and physical disabilities, but her legacy is one of love and laughter.The 31-year-old, of Radcliffe Road, Ipswich, passed away peacefully in her sleep at Ipswich Hospital last weekafter contracting pneumonia.

HAPPINESS was in her blood.

Karen Bye had severe learning and physical disabilities, but her legacy is one of love and laughter.

The 31-year-old, of Radcliffe Road, Ipswich, passed away peacefully in her sleep at Ipswich Hospital last weekafter contracting pneumonia.

But today her grieving family recalled how her recognisable laugh and enjoyment of life always prevailed over her illnesses.

Known as the “happy girl in the wheelchair”, Karen found pleasure in the simplest experiences, such as going over bumps in the road or seeing people involved in minor mishaps.

She also enjoyed music and would often be seen dancing in her wheelchair at Betty's nightclub in Ipswich.

Most Read

Her mother, Dot Bye, said: “She always told everybody she loved them.

“In Tesco, the staff knew her as the happy girl in the wheelchair. They knew she was there because they could hear her laughing.

“She put up with a lot of pain, but wouldn't complain about it.”

Father Graham, 58, added: “She liked to be out and about. She hated being indoors.”

Karen was born with epilepsy and a rare degenerative disease which left her needing round-the-clock care for much of her life.

At 18, she became unable to walk after undergoing major surgery to treat a curvature of the spine called scoliosis.

And in 2004, she nearly died from a bout of pneumonia.

Mrs Bye, 56, said: “Over the last two years, her condition had deteriorated a lot and she had developed pneumonia several times.

“We didn't anticipate her going so quickly. She was here with us all her life and we did everything for her. If we could change it and have her back, we would.”

Her resolve was formidable, as she displayed by being bridesmaid at sister Michelle Brotherton's wedding in March 2006 - just a day after having a major epileptic seizure.

With Karen in hospital, Mrs Brotherton, 33, said she would not get married without her and the family persuaded doctors to let her attend the service, much to the delight of Karen.

Mrs Bye said: “We made a dash to get her home and dressed up.

“We decorated her wheelchair and she had a lovely day. It was important to her and Michelle.”

Karen went to the Thomas Wolsey, Heathside and Belstead special schools and as an adult attended the New South West Resource centre in Whip Street, Ipswich.

Do you have a tribute for Karen? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to

THERE can be few greater tributes to the human spirit than Karen Bye and the joy she brought to so many people.

Karen's wonderful personality refused to dwindle in the face of her debilitating illnesses.

And she has proven that when you look past the disability, there is very often a far more powerful force at play.

Karen's spirit made her the “happy girl in the wheelchair”, who was remembered for her laugh rather than her condition.

We wish her family all the best as they try to rebuild their lives without Karen.

KAREN was able to receive first-rate physiotherapy care in her final years thanks to a Suffolk charity.

In June 2006, she was given a neurological plinth bought by Disability Care Enterprise (DCE), the charity supported by The Evening Star's Press Ball.

The table-like structure allowed physiotherapists to stretch Karen's limbs and stop them from stiffening.

Her mother and carer, Dot Bye, said: “It was a great help in keeping her mobile. DCE is a great charity and it helps so many people.”

Mrs Bye also praised the care Karen received at the Fun respite centre in Hadleigh in the last months of her life.

She said: “We are so grateful to Fun for their support. Respite care is important to people like us.

KAREN Bye's parents said they will be holding a service of happy songs to celebrate her life.

Dot and Graham Bye said they would be replacing the traditional hymns with a collection of popular tunes.

They do not wish to let on what songs they had chosen because they want those attending to enjoy the surprise.

Mrs Bye added: “They will be happy songs that will make people smile.”

The service will take place in the North Chapel of Ipswich Crematorium on Tuesday, December 30 at 12:15am.

The family has kindly said they do not wish to receive flowers.

If people would like to make donation, they can do so either to Fun (Karen's respite centre) or Ipswich Mencap, with cheques made payable to c/o The East of England Co-operative Funeral Service, Chapel of Rest, 54 Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich, IP4 4QE.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter