By Julie Perez–
I loved growing up in Ridgecrest and have so many fond memories. I have recently been back several times to visit for various reasons. This trip was full of mixed feelings–to memorialize one of my best friends growing up in Ridgecrest. I just wanted to tell you about Karen Archuleta.
We met at Saint Ann’s elementary school, which meant attending church every day, wearing red and white uniforms, and lots and lots of dodgeball! Growing up in the 80’s, was one of the best gifts ever. I remember in grade school; we would walk over to her mom‘s beauty salon to bum money for french fries at Carl’s Jr. We would run around her house chasing her sister Bridget, teasing her before running under the piano. I remember always seeing her dad in the garden as we took off to play sports. I hear that’s still where he spends his time. We would walk everywhere. We walked to get ice cream at Thrifty‘s or to play Centipede or Tetris at the bowling alley. We started playing tennis in grammar school because Karen’s older sisters played. The Archuleta family was an inspiration to me. I remember that we experienced a lot of freedom growing up in Ridgecrest. How lucky we were!
Karen and I spent all our growing-up years playing tennis at the China Lake Naval base tennis courts. We would go at five in the morning before school to avoid the imminent 110-plus-degree weather later in the day. She was always Martina Navratilova, and she made me be Chris Everett. Back then, those were our people. She pretty much always won, but I didn’t care because we loved tennis and we always were laughing. She had a fantastic forehand that took us to the Mammoth Open and won us the Gary Haugen tennis tournament one year. We were undefeated for many years playing varsity tennis. She and I were co-captains, and I cherish those memories.
Sometimes you meet people who lift you up when you don’t even know you need lifting. Those are the people you hold dearly in your hearts. Karen was pure joy and lit up the room with smiles and laughter. We always talked about how friends from Ridgecrest can do just that. Ridgecrest is like a big family that has spread all over the world, living their lives, raising families, and having life experiences, but every time you run into someone from Ridgecrest–it feels like home! Karen was home to me. After high school, we went our separate ways to college, and we always kept in touch, and whenever we talked, it was like we had never separated.
Karen spent her last 20 years in Arizona and played tennis regularly, ranked as a 4.5. and she only played tournaments 4.5-5.0. She played all the big circuits, had a phenomenal community of tennis friends, and was loved by all. This weekend on May 20, in Mesa, Arizona, these friends have created a legacy cup tennis event in honor of Karen. This event is to raise funds for her scholarship, as well as a nonprofit tennis foundation to raise awareness of cancer, educate about the importance of prevention and provide support for cancer patients and families in need.
On May 27, 2022, Karen Archuleta lost her two-year battle with cancer. Gone way too young, Heaven gained a beautiful soul with an enormous forehand and a killer serve. I know she is playing all the time up there. I can see her in the clouds, smiling and giggling at me when I’ve tripped over something or something makes me laugh. All loved Karen, and her best friend, Annamarie Angeles Bymoen, was her most special Angel by taking care of her throughout her treatments and her family during her last two years.
Anna Marie, her sister, Michelle, and I were able to move forward quickly and create The Karen Archuleta Memorial Tennis Scholarship for a senior graduating from Burroughs high school. We wanted this person to receive the award to be just like Karen. Someone who was an inspiration, dedicated, fierce, loyal but also fun, and overall someone who brought a higher level to the game on all levels of humanness.
This year we awarded the first award to Genevieve Vogel, who was chosen by her coach, principal, and Athletic Director. They described her as being just this person. We hope that this award inspires all to continue their journey with their passion for tennis and to be an inspiration for others.
Karen is survived by her parents, Margaret and Ben and Archuleta, and sisters Margaret, Michele, Bridget, and Barbara (and many other family members). They were all also extremely supportive in helping to make this scholarship happen. We are incredibly grateful and honored to have Karen’s legacy and love for tennis live on.
We hope you may be inspired to donate to this cause so that we can maintain the scholarship for 20 years. The scholarship amount per year is $500.
Here is the go fund me link. GoFundMe link is https://www.gofundme.com/f/karen-archuleta