Karen Henigan Henick, a longtime payroll specialist for the Westbrook School Department, who devoted her life to her three children and the Windham community, died Tuesday after a courageous fight against cancer. She was 44.

On Friday, hundreds of people are expected to attend a memorial service at Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home in Portland to honor and celebrate a woman they say inspired so many people.

Mrs. Henick, a beloved Windham resident, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 36. Her doctors gave her five years to live. At the time, she was a single mother of three young children. So, she fought. She fought for her daughter, Nicole Gelinas, now a 16 year-old sophomore at Windham High School. She fought for her son Tyler Gelinas, 15, a freshman at Windham High, and her youngest son Connor Gelinas, who is 11 years old.

“She said, ‘I want to beat this because I want to see my kids grow up’,” her brother Stephen Henigan, of Corinna, said on Thursday. “She wanted to see her daughter get married and her kids graduate … all the things that a parent is supposed to see. She wanted to fight it and beat it just for that reason. It’s a testimony of who she was. It was all about her kids and her friends”

Mrs. Henick was a fixture at her kid’s school activities and attended most of their games. She encouraged her children to be true to themselves and supported their interests.

She was also a mother figure to many of her children’s friends. On Wednesday night, kids and parents from Windham schools packed the stands at the Windham girls soccer Western Class A championship game. The team played in her honor.

Mrs. Henick had worked as a payroll specialist for the Westbrook School Department for more than ten years. Her brother said she was well liked by everyone.

“Whatever special circumstances people had, she found a way to help them,” he said. “She would just drop everything to help them. She loved her work. She absolutely adored the people she worked with.”

About a year ago, Mrs. Henick’s cancer returned and spread to her hip, then her back, liver and brain.

On Nov. 2, Mrs. Henick fulfilled her last wish to bring her family together and marry her longtime fiancée, Paul Henick, of Windham. The couple, surrounded by their families and closest friends, exchanged vows at a ceremony at Attitash Grand Summit Hotel in Bartlett, N.H. 

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com