From the day she arrived at Wolfworks in 2002, Karen Hartford’s bright smile and ever earnest intent to be supportive and helpful to everyone she’s worked with has brightened our days. After twenty eventful years Karen retired as the Labor Day weekend began and it seems fitting to honor the legacy of her working days and just how much she has mattered to the company she joined back then and has contributed to the company we are today.

Karen was working at the Valley Book, an annual magazine of local resources, when a friend of hers described a job opening to help coordinate project information at Wolfworks. The job descriptions spoke to her, even though she had no background in building – it just sounded like work she would like to be doing. After a career in customer service at the Travelers and a life devoted to raising her family in West Hartford, she was ready for something new.

She took to it immediately and in no time was guiding clients, supporting everyone involved in designing and building our projects, and most importantly developing relationships with each of them. Everyone loves Karen. She was ever the living heart of our operations. Kevin Zabel, one of our lead carpenters in her first decade working with us, dubbed her the “Care Bear” and that pretty much sums it up. She looked out and after everything and everyone.

Karen loves people and embodies that spirit of hospitality in her relationship to all: “How can I help you?” Karen didn’t just maintain relationships; she nourished them. While she couldn’t directly solve every problem she was confronted with she always listened attentively and endeavored to help find a way if there was one to be found. That in itself is a welcome trait.

She helped us navigate the inevitable business challenges, large and small. When our bookkeeper was forced to leave for a violation of trust, Karen rose to the challenge and took on that responsibility. When the economy crashed in 2009 and the construction industry came to a standstill, Karen and I spent the year imagining a way forward, closed our woodworking shop and hired Janet to manage the construction of all our projects. Wolfworks was reborn.

For the next decade as a core team the three of us established our reputation for building the energy efficient and renewably powered homes we have become known for. While Jamie and Janet carried the design and construction loads directly, Karen kept Wolfworks circulatory system pumping. Remember what I said about being the heart of our operations?

While Karen had plans to retire, she would not leave until she was certain we were being left in good shape. She spent the last year preparing for the handoff, and has spent her final month welcoming aboard our new Operations Manager Jen Bielen, showing her the ropes, and assuring us we were in good hands. That was classic Karen taking care of us.

Karen heads home to her garden, her husband Rick, and her family and grandchildren and their rich life with each other. That includes getting their classic wooden sailboat back in the water in Mystic next summer with the leisure to enjoy it. It’s been a rich and rewarding relationship and Wolfworks would not be the company we are without her. It’s been an honor to have had the pleasure of doing that work together.