Loving partner, sister, daughter, painter, lesbian, dog lover, ramp rat. Born Oct. 27, 1962, in Toronto. Died June 15, 2011, in Richmond Hill, Ont., of cancer, aged 48.
The youngest of three children born to German and Latvian parents, Karin Lapins understood from an early age that her parents had been deeply affected by the Second World War. This would influence her interest in history, world politics and social justice.
Karin always wanted to be an artist. She put herself through York University’s fine arts program, obtaining her degree in 1985. Her painting teacher informed her that she had received the highest mark he had ever given a woman.
Tall and strong, Karin enjoyed physical work. After graduation, she worked as a bike courier, then as a station attendant for Air Canada, where she was in her 23rd year as a “ramp rat.” She gained the respect and friendship of many colleagues thanks to her strong work ethic, warmth and sense of humour.
While playing in the Pink Turf Soccer League at Toronto’s Withrow Park, Karin met Janice Martin, and they married in 2005. Janice had two children from a previous marriage and Karin became a significant adult in their lives.
Karin almost always had a dog (and when she didn’t, she would walk the neighbour’s). She adopted Chico the cockapoo, who, in spite of having been advertised as “free to a good home,” cost a fortune in surgeries (he ate sticks, pennies, sand). Karin would often talk in Chico’s “voice.” If someone came to the door when he was eating, she would say: “Eating. Can’t talk.”
Karin loved to be with friends, to dance, cook, listen to music, host dinner parties and go to the pub for a Guinness or two. She loved the Canadian Shield and the lakes in the Bancroft, Ont., area, and enjoyed swimming, kayaking, painting, cycling or just sitting at the water’s edge.
Surviving endometrial and ovarian cancer in 2006 gave Karin a renewed desire to return to her life’s passion. She began to paint in earnest. She joined the Riverdale Artists’ Network and in 2008 held her first solo exhibition at their gallery. With bold colours and expressive brush strokes, she painted those to whom she felt an emotional connection – heroes, friends, artists, lovers, dogs. She also portrayed landscapes and still lifes. Over the next few years she produced more than 50 pieces and showed her work at many Toronto and Bancroft locations.
In May, severe pain brought Karin to the emergency room, where it was determined she had an aggressive cancer in her liver. A mere three weeks later, she died in her partner’s arms.
Karin had incredible inner strength and courage: to speak up for what is right; to be a talented yet undersold artist; to be gay; to be a woman in a physically tough job; and simply to be herself. She leaves many dear friends and family (including Chico), who miss her greatly.
By Janice Martin, Karin’s partner.