Medford Police Department Deputy Chief Brett Johnson speaks Saturday at a celebration of life ceremony for Karen Greenstein at Ashland High School. - Photo courtesy of the Medford Police Department

Dispatcher commemorated as 'wonderful role model'

Selfless, positive, passionate and a wonderful role model ... these are slivers of who Karen Greenstein was to friends, family members and Rogue Valley residents who gathered Saturday to remember her life.

About 500 people came together in Ashland to celebrate Greenstein, a 911 dispatcher for nearly 30 years who was killed March 27 by a wrong-way driver as she drove home from work on Interstate 5 near Phoenix.

Police and emergency services personnel from agencies across the region, many of whom knew Greenstein from her calm and confident radio voice, dressed in full uniform for the memorial service inside the Ashland High School gymnasium.

The Medford Police Department Honor Guard opened the memorial ceremony with the posting of colors.

In her eulogy, United Methodist Church Rev. Pamela Nelson-Munsun described Greenstein as a "truly amazing human being."

"By living amongst us, she enriched our lives ... she taught us by example," Nelson-Munsun said. "For Karen, it was all about helping people. She knew and took very seriously that much of the time she was the link between life and death."

Brett Johnson, deputy chief of the Medford Police Department, said others gained confidence from Greenstein's demeanor.

"Her voice on the radio or phone was reassuring," he said. "It was a blessing for us to be graced with her presence. We will miss her."

Margie Moulin, director of Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon, where Greenstein worked, said she looked up to Greenstein as a professional and friend since meeting her in 1991, and dispatchers around the county are making an effort to "be more like Karen," since her passing.

"Being like Karen meant living life in balance. ... Being like Karen meant to care and help others," Moulin said.

In 2011, Greenstein won the ECSO Dispatcher of the Year award and was nominated several times for International Public Safety Communications Telecommunicator of the Year.

Family friend Julia Roupp recounted the last time she saw Greenstein, who was walking her two dogs on the Ashland bike path.

"Karen seemed so content. There was a lightness and warmth about her," Roupp said. "Karen was always positive and easy to talk to ... a wonderful role model."

Greenstein was passionate about animals, traveling and her family; her "big heart" and "ability to laugh and play hard" added to her uniqueness, Roupp said.

Greenstein loved to read, volunteered countless hours for Friends of the Animal Shelter, recently traveled to Europe with her husband, Bill Greenstein, and visited her daughter, Amanda, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Roupp said.

Bill and Karen Greenstein married in 1985 and moved to Ashland two years later. They welcomed Amanda to the family in 1990.

The gymnasium fell into complete silence Saturday as Bill and Amanda Greenstein and other family members exited past those in attendance at the end of the service.

Ten days ago, shortly after 3 a.m., Karen Greenstein, 58, was driving her Honda Civic when a Dodge Caravan driven by Richard Webster Scott, 42, of Grants Pass, hit her vehicle head-on.

Scott was listed Friday in fair condition at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, a hospital spokesperson said.

About 30 minutes before the fatal crash, a gas station clerk in Grants Pass called police to report that Scott appeared to be severely intoxicated. Police mounted a search for Scott that night but couldn't locate him. He was driving northbound in the southbound lanes of I-5 near Phoenix when he slammed into Greenstein, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Oregon State Police said they believe alcohol may have been a contributing factor and have launched a criminal investigation.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or Follow him at

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