2007-07-24 06:26:03 UTC
Karen Choice, who inspired many people with her strong faith by using
her own tragedy to help others, has died. Beating all odds, overcoming
her addiction to drugs and dealing with the heartache of losing her 8-
year-old son, Chad Choice, who was kidnapped and murdered by a family
friend more than 16 years ago because of drugs, Mrs. Choice turned her
life into a legacy of helping those in need.
About a decade ago she began the C.H.A.D. Ministry - Church's Hour
Against Darkness - in Tyler with the help of her pastor and the
congregation of the Christian Teaching Center church. Soon after, she
started Chad's House, a shelter that takes in women in all types of
crisis, from homelessness and substance abuse to domestic violence and
sexual assault. More than 70 families have stayed at Chad's House
through the years to get their lives back on track.
Mrs. Choice died of a sudden illness at about 9 p.m. Sunday. She was
Angela Choice-Jefferson, Mrs. Choice's oldest child, said she was
proud of what her mother accomplished. She said the Lord gave her
mother many children. Most of the youth who stayed at the shelter
ended up calling her "mom," including three who reacted to her death
as Mrs. Choice-Jefferson did.
She said her mother often filled the gap of what people were missing
in life, whether it was a motherly figure or a sister.
She welcomed all people, no matter what walk of life they were, with
State District Judge Jack Skeen Jr., who has known Mrs. Choice for
many years, said Monday he was deeply saddened by her death.
Skeen was the district attorney in 1991 when Mrs. Choice's son was
kidnapped. She suffered for years not knowing what had happened to him
before discovering he had been murdered in 1996. Patrick Horn killed
the boy the night of his abduction but terrorized the family, sending
ransom notes and the slain child's bones to Mrs. Choice's house on the
anniversary of his kidnapping, which was also her birthday.
"She lived through every parent's worst nightmare," Skeen said.
"Through all of that time, she showed a tremendous amount of courage
and strength. She relied on her deep faith in God, which she had all
the way up to the end."
After the murder case was solved and justice was served with Horn's
conviction, Mrs. Choice made it her No. 1 mission to keep Chad's
memory alive with the C.H.A.D. Ministry, he said.
Mrs. Choice always had a big smile on her face that brightened up the
room. Each time she left after one of their many talks, "you felt your
day had just been brightened," he said. "It's hard for me to believe
that Karen is gone," Skeen said, adding that he talked to her a few
weeks ago about the future of Chad's House.
Skeen has known a lot of victims, but Mrs. Choice was one of the most
courageous and strong individuals he has ever seen. She never lost her
faith or hope that justice would be done for her son. He said she had
a tremendous inner strength everyone around her could see and feel.
Mrs. Choice never wanted to be called a victim.
"I'm a victor because I have victory over what should have killed me,"
she said during an interview in December 2005.
Mrs. Choice hoped the story of Horn, who is serving a life sentence,
will serve as a warning for children. The pull of drugs and the desire
to become a big-time drug dealer led him to murder Chad, even though
he had come to Mrs. Choice's house many times before, she said.
"She was absolutely a wonderful person," Skeen said. "I'm going to
terribly miss her."
Skeen said he wasn't aware Mrs. Choice was ill, although she never
would have complained to anyone. He said Mrs. Choice wouldn't want to
see a bunch of people with their heads down because of her death.
Instead, she would want them to be optimistic, looking toward the
future as she always did.
"Chad's memory will live on forever through the work of Karen," Skeen
said. Everyone now needs to "rededicate ourselves in keeping Chad's
memory and ministry alive for years into the future."
Mrs. Choice has said her church, the Christian Teaching Center, was
her saving grace. The congregation didn't look down on her because of
her past. She said she remembered Chad being a member of the
children's ministry and what a blessing it was for him to know God
before his early death and for her to see all of her four children
HER LOVE OF CHILDREN
"She was a woman who loved God, who loved people and who loved
children," said Flora Cobb, pastor of the Christian Teaching Center
and executive director of C.H.A.D. Ministry. Ms. Cobb said she asked
Mrs. Choice once if she also took in stray animals because "every
stray child would find their way to her doorway."
She said Mrs. Choice came to the church about 20 years ago and Ms.
Cobb started the C.H.A.D. Ministry with her to try and aid people who
She said they plan to keep the ministry and Chad's House going. She
talked with Mrs. Choice Saturday night about their plans for the "Chad
Rally," an annual event held in October - the anniversary of Chad's
abduction - to recognize people who have donated money to the cause
and ask for more support.
Mrs. Choice worked as a legal assistant in the Smith County District
Attorney's Office for the last six months."She brought to our office
not only her beautiful spirit as a person, but also the unique
understanding of and feelings for the victims of crime," District
Attorney Matt Bingham said. "She was a very special part of the
District Attorney's Office family. We will miss her very much."
In March, Mrs. Choice was honored at the annual Women in Tyler Day
luncheon for beating the odds to triumph over adversity and
contributing daily to make the community a better place to live.
Besides housing woman and children in need of help, Mrs. Choice, who
served as director of the ministry, counseled and gave clothes, food
and other assistance to people who do not reside at Chad's House. The
ministry also serves as a community assessment center, referring the
women to other places, and it includes the Phase 2 Phase resale shop,
which opened in April 2004.
Mrs. Choice had bigger dreams for the small organization.
With property across the street from Chad's House donated by the
church, she envisioned a 14-bedroom shelter and a training facility
that would include workout machines and computers. Mrs. Choice looked
forward to having a bigger shelter so she wouldn't have to turn people
Another dream of Mrs. Choice's was to help the women rent apartments
or to buy their own homes when they were ready to leave Chad's House.
Mrs. Choice-Jefferson, who serves as the administrator of the
ministry, said she plans to continue what her mother set out to do,
including her dreams of building a bigger shelter.
"We hope the community will still embrace Chad's House and remember
what she dreamed to do," she said.
A memorial service for Mrs. Choice is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday at
the Community Funeral Home of Tyler while the funeral service will be
held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Christian Teaching Center.
For those who want to make donations to Mrs. Choice's family or the
non-profit ministry, a fund is being set up at Southside Bank under
the name C.H.A.D., A Ministry of Christian Teaching Center, Ms. Cobb
said. For more information, call 903-592-8025 or 903-597-8880.
By Casey Knaupp