CONCORD, CA (July 21, 2023) — Karen Mangini was a fourth generation Contra Costan born March 27, 1943 in Concord Hospital, which was located in a house on East Street, just around the corner from Almond Avenue where her family home was located. That was a fitting start for a woman who spent the majority of her life living and working in her hometown.
Mangini died June 17 at the hospital (now John Muir Health, Concord Medical Center) where she was born, just three months after celebrating her 80th birthday at a party with family and friends.
Her brother Richard, pastor of St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Concord for 21 years until his retirement in 2017, says his sister had a medical episode at home and never regained consciousness before she died a few days later surrounded by family in the hospital.
The 1940s Mangini family home was located on a lot that is now part of Queen of All Saints Church in downtown Concord. Across the street was a Portuguese lodge, the future site of Queen of All Saints School where Karen Mangini was in the first kindergarten class.
After graduating from Holy Names High School in Oakland (taking the greyhound bus daily to Oakland to attend classes), she entered the Novitiate of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet in Los Angeles, attending college at Mount Saint Mary’s in preparation for becoming a nun.
She left there after three years and completed her BA at Cal State Hayward and began a 43-year career in education at Catholic and public schools in Livermore while also earning her master’s in education and her administrative services credential.
Mangini started the second phase of her career in 1986 as dean of students at Presentation High School in Berkeley and then was principal at St. Cyril’s School in Oakland.
After an uncle living in the Mangini Ranch home off Pine Hollow Road died in the mid-1980s, Richard and Karen Mangini inherited the property once owned by their grandparents. They restored the ranch house, which had been rather neglected, and Karen Mangini moved in there in 1989 from Oakland.
In 1990 she became principal of St. Agnes School in Concord where she spent two decades as its first lay principal before retiring in 2010. Her brother said she always looked to help families in need. If a class wasn’t at capacity and there was a student who couldn’t afford the school’s tuition, she would offer that family admission at no charge. “The chair is empty, why let it sit vacant?” she would say.
Her successor as St. Agnes principal, Jill Lucia, says, “Karen was a legacy; part of a group of legacy principals (at nearby parochial schools) we will never see again. They were steeped in Catholic, faith-centered education.”
Lucia added that Mangini “was a natural” as principal and that she lived by six words from Micah in the Bible, “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.”
Her brother says his sister “was sharing, jovial and happy with a sense of humor and a belly laugh to fill a room and that she gave her all to everything she was a part of.” At the same time “she was most principled and stuck to those principles. She wouldn’t bend the rules but was very compassionate with a heart for people who didn’t have it as good.”
Their home is off Pine Hollow Rd. with a Concord zip code but in Contra Costa County. Karen Mangini for decades could be seen walking three to five miles along Pine Hollow and on the “state streets” until a stroke several years ago made that difficult and she stuck closer to home.
She was buried at Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Lafayette in a plot with her parents, Raymond and Margaret Mangini.
Related story: Obituary — Karen Ann Mangini
Watch: Karen Mangini funeral mass and service video on Facebook
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.