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Karen Graham, 47, Mount Sinai math teacher, dies

Karen Graham died of ovarian cancer Aug. 24.

Karen Graham died of ovarian cancer Aug. 24. Credit: Courtesy of Patricia (Wrobleski) Faiella

For 22 years, Karen Lynn Graham did the near-impossible -- she made math fun.

Amid the algebra, calculus and other subjects she taught at Mount Sinai High School, she'd work in a song or a joke, recalled Kelly Lynch, a fellow math teacher at the school. Silly jokes like, "What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt."

"We teach math to high schoolers. She always found a way to make it painless," Lynch said.

Graham, 47, of Lake Grove, died Aug. 24 of ovarian cancer.

"She had a joke for every occasion. That's what everybody remembers about her," said her sister, Patricia Faiella of Holbrook.

Graham seemed to be perpetually in motion with a smile on her face, family and friends said. They remembered her going to her two teenage daughters' lacrosse and field hockey games and to Girl Scout events. As a teacher, she attended Mount Sinai's sporting events, danced and sang in the school talent show, and was always available for tutoring after class.

"She was never at rest," Lynch said. "Even when she was sick, you never would have known it."

A native of Flushing, Queens, Graham moved to Ronkonkoma with her family when she was 4. She graduated with honors from Connetquot High School in 1983 and earned a bachelor's in education from SUNY Geneseo in 1987.

"She could have been anything after high school," Faiella said. "But she really wanted to be a teacher. She wanted to share her knowledge and she thought math was fun."

Graham was a fan of puzzles, riddles and game shows. Two days before her death, "Jeopardy" was on the television in her room at Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson, Faiella said.

"Even though she was barely conscious, being on so much morphine, she whispered the answers. And they were the right answers," Faiella said. "I thought, 'Oh God, we can't even beat her when she's semiconscious.' "

"She just cared about everybody," said her husband, Scott Graham, and always came up with something nice to say when someone was being criticized. "I used to call her the great defender," he said.

In addition to her husband and sister, Karen Lynn Graham is survived by two daughters, Morgan Lynn and Madison Nicole; her parents, William and Janet Wrobleski, of Ronkonkoma; and a brother, Christopher Wrobleski of Commack.

She was interred at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram on Tuesday.

Donations can be made to Good Shepherd Hospice, 245 Old Country Rd., Melville, NY 11747.

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