Cover photo for Karen Elisabeth Schanzenbacher's Obituary
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1943 Karen Elisabeth Schanzenbacher 2023

Karen Elisabeth Schanzenbacher

June 21, 1943 — April 26, 2023

Colonial Heights

Karen Elisabeth Michaelsen Schanzenbacher, 79, of Colonial Heights, Virginia, passed away on Wednesday, April 26, 2023. Born in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, on June 21, 1943, she was the daughter of the late Christian Michael Anker Michaelsen and Doris Olive Cullin Michaelsen.

Karen was a loving wife, mother, and grandmother who adored her family immensely. She had a zest for life and was known for her spunky and witty personality, which her family will miss greatly. She was a devoted and beloved member of the occupational therapy community and dedicated over 40 years to the profession. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, and then went on to earn her master’s degree from the University of Buffalo. She was also an avid Michigan State Spartan fan for many years. She helped many children working for various school districts in Olean, NY, taught students her wisdom of occupational therapy as a professor at the University of Buffalo (eventually becoming chairman of the department), and was a member of the American Occupation Therapy Association. She volunteered for different hospice organizations, the senior center in Colonial Heights, and was involved with the Johnny Appleseed Foundation. Throughout her career, Karen was known for her kindness, compassion, and unwavering dedication to her patients. She believed that every child deserved the opportunity to reach their full potential, and she worked tirelessly to help them do just that. In addition to her successful career, Karen loved to garden and be outdoors, listen to music, enjoyed reading, loved birds, and loved her cats. She was a longtime active member of Chester Presbyterian Church, and was involved with many activities, especially their after-school tutoring program.

She is survived by her loving husband and devoted caregiver of 57 years, George Walter Schanzenbacher; her daughters, Lisa Anne Vitalone and husband, Britt, and Amy Lynne Peters and husband, Jeffery; grandchildren, Benjamin Michael Peters, Jackson Marc Peters, and Carter George Peters; a brother, Erik Stanley Michaelsen; sister-in-law, Marge Hilger (Art); and numerous nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will be held at 3:00p.m. on Saturday, April 29, 2023, at Chester Presbyterian Church, 3424 W Hundred Road Chester, Virginia 23831. The family will receive friends from 6:00p.m. to 8:00p.m. on Friday, April 28, 2023, at the Colonial Heights Chapel of the E. Alvin Small Funeral Homes & Crematory, 2033 Boulevard Colonial Heights, Virginia. A visitation will take place from 6:00p.m. to 8:00p.m. on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Lange Funeral Home, 186 East Avenue Lockport, New York 14094. Entombment will take place privately in Glenwood Cemetery & Chapel, Lockport, New York.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the SPCA of Petersburg & Colonial Heights, 104 Pickwick Avenue, Colonial Heights, VA 23834, or Smitty’s Cat Rescue, 17301 Route 1, South Chesterfileld, VA 23834.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Karen Elisabeth Schanzenbacher, please visit our flower store.
In memory of Karen Elisabeth Schanzenbacher, please consider making a donation to one of the following charities:

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, April 28, 2023

6:00 - 8:00 pm (Eastern time)

E Alvin Small Funeral Homes and Crematory - Colonial Heights

2033 Boulevard, Colonial Heights, VA 23834

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Funeral Service

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Starts at 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

Chester Presbyterian Church

3424 W Hundred Rd, Chester, VA 23831

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