Karen Tolan

About the Author

I Can Still Do It by Karen Tolan

For nearly a decade, Karen Trolan has been grappling with the paraplegia she suffered in the crash of the private plane she was piloting while taking off from the Truckee, California airport. Hers is a story of hard work, discipline, and perseverance—qualities she developed while babysitting, waitressing, and also tending the horses her family boarded on their property in Los Gatos when she was in high school. She put herself through college and graduated from San Jose State University, with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and minors in biology and chemistry. One year later, she met her husband, Steve, on a vacation trip to Hawaii, where he was stationed in the Army. In a storybook romance, Steve and Karen were married a year later.

The couple has two sons and a daughter and have always enjoyed a life full of activity with recreational sports and travel together. A natural leader, Karen coached her kids’ sports teams and was active herself in the martial arts, ski patrol, search and rescue, hiking, triathlons, and many water sports.


Karen also excelled in business, achieving the rank of top Realtor in her company in her first full year. She rose to be senior vice president and managing broker for Cornish & Carey Residential Real Estate in four offices: Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, and Los Gatos. Later, she became Coldwell Banker’s senior vice president and regional manager of its Silicon Valley offices, leading over one thousand brokers, sales executives, and staff in its eighteen offices stretching from Palo Alto to Gilroy. Karen was also on the board of directors in several associations as well as in various sports clubs, including Pop Warner Football and Cheer and Girls on the Run.

She was determined to live life as fully after the plane crash in 2009 causing her to be a paraplegic. Karen has achieved that dream, active in most all of the sports she did earlier. She water and snow skis, rides horseback, kayaks, swims and ATVS—having relearned all sports, some “adaptively.” She added another one recently: archery.

Karen came back into the Real Estate Profession as an Assistant Manager and Broker Associate at the Alain Pinel Realtors Los Gatos Office. Focusing on agents’ business improvement and exceeding clients’ expectations and dreams, she is committed to making a difference in people’s lives. Karen is an Outdoor Emergency Care and Emergency Medical Technician. She is a team leader of the Disaster Aid Response Team (DART) in Los Gatos, and an instructor with Industrial Emergency Council and Northstar California Ski Patrol. She continues training in Martial Arts, including a promotion to second degree black belt in Kenpo Jujitsu. Her accomplishments include her recent International Gold Medal in Jujitsu—demonstrating defenses from her wheelchair against an able-bodied assailant! Karen was also inducted into the “Legends of Martial Arts” Hall of Fame with the Extraordinary Achievements in the Martial Arts Awards in 2017.

Her leadership experience also includes the 2013 District Chair for Los Gatos-Saratoga, 2016 President for the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors and the 2018 Regional Chair and Executive Committee for the California Association of Realtors. Karen manages special projects for APR and has teamed with two of her children, T. J. and Lindsay, to work with real estate clients.

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