Karen Ramsey, in memoriam

Karen Ramsey, our co-editor, photographer, and friend to so many in D.C., died on Monday. We are all still in shock, and there aren’t adequate words. Here are some of her photos that illustrate how Karen reached out and touched so many people.


Karen showed up. All the time, everywhere. These next photos are just a few of the times she showed up to mourn and document local tragedies.

Hugh Washington and his 17-year-old son Ahkii were shot inside their apartment in July 2019. A football teammate of Ahkii Washington-Scruggs signs his varsity jersey with his number 26 at a memorial at Dunbar High School
A mural by Jah-One on the Holiday Market near Somerset Prep DC school is dedicated to 15-year-old Maurice Scott, who was fatally struck by a bullet in May 2019 as he was walking to a convenience store.
Bike advocate Dave Salovesh was killed in 2019 by the speeding driver of a stolen van. Friends of his share memories of him at the temporary ghost bike placed at 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE.
A wooden cutout served as a temporary memorial for the two homeless men, Thomas Dwight Spriggs and Jesus Antonio Llanes-Datil, fatally struck by a driver while they were sitting on benches in a park on Pennsylvania Ave NW on a summer night in July 2019.

She saw both the famous and the quiet moments of the city. Here are some of the famous moments she saw:

John Lewis procession to the Capitol
Rain didn’t stop Karen from standing for long periods listening to important issues. Here, Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor The Youth With The Indigo Girls, shared an impassioned speech on her work with environmental justice in indigenous communities.
We are still in awe about how Karen managed to get up high to see Black Lives Matter Plaza right after it had been painted.
Karen documented not only the major demonstrations in D.C., but the heartfelt smaller scenes.

We didn’t know Karen back when she was in the Peace Corps, but here are some of her photos of those times.

A yam farmer and his son in Binadjoube, Togo. This photo was used on the welcome manual for new Peace Corps Volunteers to Togo for several years.
Riders playing kokpar (also called buzkashi), a polo game with a goat carcass at Song Kul lake in Kyrgyz Republic, a summer pasture area for nomadic herders. 2007
Horses in Naryn Province, Kyrgyz Republic along the silk road. 2007
Women stringing beads for trinkets at the tourists market in Pretoria, South Africa. 2008

Karen in May watching the Cleveland Park hawks

For seeing more of the world through Karen’s eyes, here’s her Instagram account, and the project she did on this site showcasing the views she’d captured of D.C. many years apart.

A great friend to so many. Rest In Peace.

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39 Comments

  1. I miss Karen so much already. I’m so grateful that she shared her talents and perspectives with us and that we have her amazing photos to reflect on. She really seemed to pour herself into The Uncommon District and, despite her usual quiet demeanor, let her passions flow out through it.

  2. Oh my gosh – I am so shocked. She and I communicated over our photos on Instagram, and she invited me to submit work here. I send my heartfelt condolences to you all here at the Uncommon District on the loss of such a sweet friend.

  3. This is a very nice tribute on a sad day. She will be greatly missed. Thank you for all your wonderful images Karen.

  4. RIP Karen. You were a wonderful neighbor and a great friend. You will be missed dearly and never forgotten.

  5. I didn’t know who @ker_dc on Twitter was until now. I did know it was someone who cared about the city and its people. This a shock.

  6. Karen was a dear friend and I am still in shock. I will miss our nights together knitting and drinking wine, I will miss seeing her on her bike in the neighborhood and all around town. I have so many memories of Karen, but most recently when my son was born in March she reached out and asked if we wanted her to come over and take socially distant family photos. She came over then and one other time last month and took some truly beautiful photos of my family. She was generous and selfless and cared about her friends. I will miss her deeply and will always be hoping it is her when someone passes me on a bike with a blue helmet. Thank you for sharing these words and photos.

  7. I am so shocked, and saddened. I spoke to her almost every week!

    Her kind and optimistic face will be missed!

  8. Karen, from our first conversation at a heated ANC meeting all the way to a cross-country move you were simply the best friend, thought partner, and mentor I could ever have hoped for. Your memory WILL be for a blessing.

  9. Karen is a dear friend from Ohio Wesleyan University. She was on of the most compassionate people I’ve known. I will miss her.

  10. I know Karen from attending 5DANC meetings. The picture shows her in her true element, an avid biker. Also a true advocate of many things, but most of all, kind.

    Rest in Paradise Karen!

  11. It has been 24 hours since I learned about Karen’s passing. The lump in my throat comes back every time I remember our her face, our chats and photo walks. I feel lucky to have gotten to know her and being able to keep in touch with her until her last day. I will miss her and I will not forget about her.

  12. Could someone, please, tell me what happened to Karen? She was a dear friend to me and one of my daughter’s best friends. I am devastated.

    1. Kay, I don’t know if you have been able to reach anyone yet to get your questions answered. If not, I was a neighbor and friend of Karen and you can email me at Amy.vruno at gmail.com to find a time to talk.

  13. I’m shocked and saddened to hear this news. I have no words. She reached out to me last Friday. I will forever hold onto her last encouraging words. πŸ’—

  14. I too was truly DEVASTATED when I learned of Karen’s passing. My eyes and heart can’t seem to stop crying for her. I pray she is at PEACE! My last memory of her is standing in my front yard talking to her as she waited patiently for Danielle to join her😊 I will miss talking to heat. RIP my FRIEND…πŸ’”πŸ’”πŸ’”πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™πŸ’”πŸ’”πŸ’”

  15. I’m shocked and so sad. Karen was a friend from Peace Corps Cameroon. Although these days our contact was limited to occasional FB communication, I have wonderful memories of Karen. Can anyone please explain what happened? She will be greatly missed. ❀️

    1. Abby. I don’t know if you have been able to reach anyone yet to get your questions answered. If not, I was a neighbor and friend of Karen and you can email me at Amy.vruno at gmail.com to find a time to talk.

  16. Karen was the Associate Director for Business and the Environment with Peace Corps Togo. I was her Country Director and knew no one who worked harder at managing two important programs and who offered sounder advice to Volunteers. She was also great fun and a good friend.

    1. She, Alex and George Monagan interviewed me for the position of NRM Tech Coordinator position while she was still in Togo
      Until I read this …we remain good friends and many unfinished projects.
      I just can’t believe it.

  17. So sad to learn that she was gone. I’m surprised that she was in Peace Corps, and she didn’t mention to me. May I ask which country did she served with the Peace Corps?

    My regret that I didn’t get to talk her about her Peace Corps experience.

    Thank you. Erikson-

    1. Karen was in Cameroon for three years, as a Community Development volunteer and then as a Provincial Representative. Later she worked in Peace Corps administration in Togo and Kazakhstan. And I think she served in all those capacities with passion.

  18. Karen was wonderful person who lived her life with passion and appreciation for the beauty in this world. She was a true friend to many and will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, mon amie.

  19. I wonder if Karen knew the impact she had on people and the love they have for her. She was from a small town in Ohio and went on to make a positive impact far from where she started.

  20. Karen was an incredibly giving, talented and caring person. Always helping and supporting others. We served together in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and I how kind and present she was for everyone. Dearest Karen, I am sending love and light to you on your journey to the other side. Rest in Peace my friend.

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