Car Racing 06

Opal Karns

January 17, 1936 ~ January 16, 2021 (age 84)


Opal Jewel Karns of Niles, Michigan, mother, grandmother, fisherwoman, camper, Baptist, and fast driver died peacefully at 11:54 a.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021 – one day short of her 85th birthday – with her daughter at her side in Spectrum Health - Lakeland Hospital – Niles following a brief illness.

She was born on January 17, 1936 in Manila, Arkansas to Frank and Ima (Matheny) Short.  She was graduated from high school in Griffithville, Arkansas, and came to Niles in 1958.  She was employed by Walt Ellis in his machine shop in Berrien Springs where she supervised the machinists.

Opal was a member of the First Baptist Church of Berrien Springs.  She and her family spent much of their lives in the outdoors, fishing and mushroom hunting, and driving their dune buggy near Hart, Michigan.  They enjoyed camping, especially along the banks of the Kalamazoo River.  Camping began in tents, and evolved through a pick-up truck cap, a slide-in camper over the pick-up truck cab; and then a travel trailer, a custom converted bus, and ultimately a fifth-wheel trailer.

They also enjoyed auto racing, and often visited the Hartford (Michigan) Speedway Park.  Their interest in being outdoors, traveling, and motorsports all were evident in the speed at which they travelled – fast/very fast – including a legendary round-trip from Arkansas back to Michigan to retrieve a freshly roasted turkey from the kitchen counter, said to have been completed in 12 hours!

More recently, they have enjoyed the fast action and the fellowship of likeminded folks . . . at the casino.

On June 27, 1959 at the Berrien Springs Baptist Church she married Paul L. Karns, Jr. with whom she celebrated the remarkable fifty-fourth anniversary of their wedding prior to his death on September 16, 2013.  She was also preceded in death by six siblings, Richard L. Short, Carl B. Short, Mabel Gentry, Rena M. Hoffner, Cora Lee Looney, and Frank Short, Jr.

Surviving family includes her children, Cynthia (& Rex) Davis of Baroda, Michigan, Tammy Lynn Karns of Marcellus, Michigan, and Timothy Allen Karns of Alabama; grandchildren Anthony (& Linsey) Davis, SSgt. Christopher (& Sasha) Davis, U.S.Army, Courtney (& Michael) Williams, Jeremy (& Whitney Pinkowski) Plouhar, April Nichole Karns, Faith Casandra Mete, Jacob, and Austin Jarman; many great-grandchildren including Josephine, Makayla, Michael, Mathew, Madison, and Layla; and Opal’s sister, Cordillia Matlock of Berrien Springs, and many nieces and nephews.

The family of Opal Karns will receive relatives and friends beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles, and then will process at 11:00 a.m. to her graveside at Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles for Committal Services with Pastor Derek Cromwell of the First Baptist Church of Berrien Springs officiating.  Attendance is limited and masks will be required, and social distancing practiced.  Others may witness the events via the livestreamed broadcast on the Halbritter-Wickens Facebook page: hhttp://ttps://

Contributions in memory of Opal may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, 225 North Michigan Avenue, Floor 17, Chicago, Illinois, 60601,  Online condolences may be left at:

Opal loved life, used her years well . . . and fast, and was a loving wife, mother, and friend.  She has clearly “finished her race and kept her faith”. 

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Opal Karns, please visit our floral store.


January 20, 2021

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Halbritter Wickens Funeral Home
615 E. Main St.
Niles, MI 49120

Livestreamed Graveside Service
January 20, 2021

11:00 AM
Halbritter Wickens Facebook

January 20, 2021

11:15 AM
Silverbrook Cemetery


Alzheimer's Association Michigan Great Lakes
564 South Main Street, Suite 200, Ann Arbor MI 48104

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