Late McAdoo native was humanitarian, former mayor

McAdoo native Rosemary Stasek fell in love with Afghanistan after visiting the war-torn country with an Afghan-American delegation following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The 46-year-old humanitarian and former Mountain View, Calif., mayor made her home in Kabul in the years that followed and died there on Sept. 24.

A heart attack -- not a bomb -- took her life, her parents Andrew and Patricia Stasek of McAdoo said. Stasek had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March, but the disease had been taking its toll on her longer than that. Her parents didn't realize how ill her daughter had become until reading a tribute written by her assistant regarding Stasek's final days, her father said.

The couple always feared for their only daughter's safety in Afghanistan, but knew she was doing what she loved -- helping people in need and working for women's rights.

"She was fearless," her mother said. "The first time she was there ... she said, 'I want to do something to help them.'"

Her parents recognized their daughter's compassion and drive to help others when she was just a little girl, her mother said.

Her father remembers when one of her friends wasn't allowed to go on a Girl Scout field trip, and she gathered up the troop and marched the delegation to this little girl's home to try to persuade her mother to change her mind.

Stasek took those leadership skills with her to Marian Catholic High School, where she was a merit scholar and served as the football team's manager.

Football coach Stan Dakosty knew the 1981 graduate well. Energetic, loyal, hard-working, selfless and an example are among the words he used to describe Stasek.

"I kept track of her," he said. "I talked about her in my classes. She set the standard. She led a life that when you look at it ... was impressive.

"She was a person who touched people's lives," Dakosty added. "It's a real loss. The world needs more people like her."

Sister Bernard Agnes, principal at Marian, also taught Stasek during her senior year. She remembers her as an outstanding, well-rounded student who was always bubbly, radiant and smiling.

"I was really stunned when I heard the news. Everyone here was in shock," she said. "She was so dynamic. She was very talented, and she gave her life to doing good things. She was too good for this world."

Stasek studied economics at Cornell University and began a fast-tracked career in banking in California, her father said. She later left banking to work as a Web designer and worked as a consultant for Oracle, Netscape and Microsoft.

Stasek then looked for a new challenge and sought political office in Mountain View, a community of about 70,000 south of San Francisco. She served two terms on council and one year as mayor.

While on council, Stasek made a bid for California State Assembly, and served on the board of Planned Parenthood Advocates Mar Monte and the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women.

She was named a Distinguished Woman of the 14th Congressional District, and received the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights Freedom of Religion Award and the Alameda National Women's Political Caucus Pro-Choice Champion Award. She was also a nominee for the Silicon Valley Women of Achievement Award.

In 1999, the Secretary of Defense selected her to participate in a Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, which toured military installations across the country and aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean. She learned more about military affairs, especially women's issues, and served as a member of the Air Force Space Commanders Group.

Her interest in international affairs took her to Nepal, Ecuador, France, Britain, Holland, Germany, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech and Slovak republics, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Venezuela, Tanzania and Vietnam.

She also traveled to Cuba as a member of a special women's delegation in 1998, and was a member of one of the first delegations to return to Afghanistan in 2002.

She traveled back and forth to Kabul after that first trip, and after her second term on council ended in 2005, she spent a year in Afghanistan. During that year, she acted as a logistics manager for the Kabul Beauty School.

Stasek founded the nonprofit organization, "a little help," which raises money for small-scale projects helping women and children there. Among the ongoing projects included aid to women and children in a women's prison, buying books and other school supplies for girls' education and aid to a school for the blind.

The organization was looking for donations to regularly supply yogurt for better nutrition for women and children in prison, and for school supplies for teenage girls serving prison terms, many for murders committed by family members, according to her Web site, www.stasek.com.

Stasek also met her husband, Morne du Preez, a security contractor from South Africa, in Kabul. The couple married in 2007 after a short courtship.

Stasek will be buried in her hometown, and services will be announced shortly. A memorial was held in Kabul, and another is planned Oct. 23 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts in Mountain View, where flags flew at half-staff for five days following her death.

kmonitz@standardspeaker.com

Credit: Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.

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