March 17, 1958 – Feb. 8, 2020
Karen Troxel-Borrelli, as an award-winning sportswriter, was intrepid.
“She was in locker rooms when it was a big deal for women to be in locker rooms,” said her friend, retired Buffalo News reporter Helen Jones. “She had a wicked sense of humor. She was tough when she had to be, but she had a good heart.”
A former sports department employee at The Buffalo News and a romance novelist, she died Saturday under hospice care in Johnson City Medical Center, Johnson City, Tenn., after a long struggle with breast cancer. She was 61.
Born in Bristol, Va., the younger of two children, she grew up across the state line in the twin city of Bristol, Tenn., and in nearby Bluff City, Tenn. She was a 1980 graduate of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and political science.
She began her newspaper career with the Kingsport Times News in Kingsport, Tenn., worked at a small paper in Wisconsin, then was hired as a sports reporter at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in Bluefield, W.Va., by the sports editor, Tom Borrelli, son of longtime Buffalo News political writer George Borrelli.
On their first date, they went to a minor league baseball game and had dinner at McDonald’s.
“She didn’t like to do formal things that people do,” her brother William Troxel said.
She went on to the Oneonta Daily Star as a sportswriter from 1984 to 1988, then was sports editor at the Elmira Star-Gazette.
When she and her husband were married in 1990, they took their honeymoon in Cincinnati, Ohio, so they could see his favorite major league baseball team, the Reds.
“We did everything together,” she said in 2009 during dedication of a plaque to her husband at the former Newseum in Washington, D.C.
After her husband joined The News as a sportswriter, she was a freelance high school sports reporter for the paper, worked for a year at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Amherst, then became a part-time aide in the sports department in 1995. She began working full-time in 1998.
Her husband was best known for his coverage of the Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team and was the first sportswriter inducted into the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame. He died in 2008 of injuries suffered in a fall while covering a football game at All-High Stadium.
A City of Tonawanda resident, Ms. Troxel-Borrelli left The News shortly after his death and returned to Tennessee.
“She wanted sunshine and heat,” her brother said.
She helped care for her ailing mother and worked in Bristol as a newspaper layout and copy editor. She returned here annually for the memorial golf tournament held in her husband’s memory and for the presentation of Tom Borrelli awards to outstanding Western New York high school lacrosse players.
As Karen Troxel, she also wrote half a dozen romance novels that were published in the 2000s. Two of them – “No Time to Hide” and “Tempest” – recently were reissued under a new pen name, Trixie Stilletto.
Jones, who also is a romance novelist, said that name was thought up on a train ride with a group of other Buffalo-area authors to a convention of romance writers in New York City.
She stopped writing romance novels after the death of her husband, Jones said, but used her experiences as a cancer patient to write a mystery novel set in a hospital, “Do Grave Harm,” which she self-published, donating the proceeds to breast cancer research.
She was a member of Romance Writers of America, the Electronic Published Internet Connection and the Association of Electronic Published Romance Authors.
Jones said that she enjoyed knitting, gardening, photography, basket weaving, dogs and cats.
She also was an avid traveler. Jones said that in the year before her death, Ms. Troxel-Borrelli took a cruise to Alaska and visited the Grand Canyon and Wyoming, where she stepped out of her car and came eye-to-eye with a bison that had stopped traffic.
Aside from her brother, there are no other survivors.
A celebration of her life will be held in late spring or early summer in Johnson City.