UNMC - Lizs Legacy - About Liz Karnes
About Liz Karnes
Liz Karnes inspired people with her life. She dreamed of a day when mankind wouldn't be so powerless in the face of cancer. She believed that by concentrating our efforts, our resources, and our hope, cancer will no longer be the threat that it is today. It's the goal of Liz's Legacy to keep that vision alive.
The wife of former Nebraska Senator David Karnes and mother of four, Liz Karnes led a life that was dedicated to others. Whether it was mentoring people behind the scenes or being the first woman to serve on the Omaha Airport Authority, she always put other people first.
One of her main commitments was education. She earned a doctorate in education administration and worked for Boys Town and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She served on the District 66 School Board for 17 years and worked for literacy under Barbara Bush. You would be hard-pressed to find a bigger advocate of education in Nebraska.
Liz's family was her greatest joy in life, and when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1991 and given six months to live, she made it her goal to present all four of her daughters with their high school diplomas. In 2002, she stood proudly on the dais with her school board colleagues and gave her youngest daughter Laurel not only a hug, but also her diploma. That day, Liz reached her goal of seeing all her daughters graduate with distinction in the top one percent of their graduating classes.
Liz fought for 12 years with tenacity and determination. Through great pain and suffering she remained optimistic and focused on others. Newly diagnosed patients looked to her as an example of how we can stand up to cancer. She inspired people. And with nothing but her example, she would show them that they could live with cancer. That they were stronger than their disease. And an amazing thing happened. They believed her. She gave them hope.
Liz Karnes passed away in April 2003, but those whose lives she touched will always remember her courage and her compassion for others. Liz and her family have shown us that cancer can take away a great many things, but not those which matter most. She often said, "Every day is a chance to make life a little bit better," and that belief inspired a legacy that will serve others for many years to come.
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