Former students and current public officials Sunday fondly remembered Karen Stanek, a retired teacher and Democratic member of the Seymour Board of Selectmen. She passed away Friday at the age of 70.
“Karen was what Seymour is all about — family and community,” Seymour First Selectman Kurt Miller said. “Every time we talked she always made mention of her family and what they had going on. I know she was incredibly proud of them.”
Stanek influenced generations of Seymour’s youth through teaching.
“I’ve known Karen since she was my teacher in high school. She was one of the first people to inspire me to pursue public office,” said Stephen Behuniak, chairman of the Seymour Democratic Party and a member of the Board of Selectmen. “Her enthusiasm for politics and public service were contagious and affected countless Seymour students.”
Many of those former students used The Valley Indy Facebook page to share their memories and to express condolences to her family. Her husband, Fred, is a respected local lawyer who has also been involved in the Seymour civic scene for years.
Karen A. Brozek posted a photo from the 1986 Seymour High School yearbook. Stanek was teaching at the school at the time. The yearbook was dedicated to her.
The yearbook dedication talks about how Stanek was a true teacher, someone who made information relevant to students. Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that the authors made the dedication after Stanek transferred to the middle school.
She was that significant.
The dedication is below:
“Teaching was the perfect career for her because any time you were around her, inside a classroom or out, you learned something,” Behuniak said.
“Mrs. Stanek was an incredible person and teacher,” Heidi Natalino wrote in a post on Valley Indy Facebook.
“Heartfelt condolences to Fred and Karen’s family. I enjoyed working with Karen at SHS and becoming her friend,” Ellen Marcantonio wrote.
“Karen’s work with the mock trial team pays daily dividends. A lot of great people are making lives better directly because of her influence,” wrote Christopher Bowen.
Politically, Stanek was never afraid to speak her mind, regardless of the fact she was in the minority party on the Board of Selectmen.
“Karen challenged me on a regular basis,” said Miller, a Republican. “She would push me on issues and things she felt strongly about but always did so in a respectful and proper manner. She always wanted what was best for Seymour.”
As evidence of Stanek’s good nature, Miller noted she would sometimes bring a root beer soda to Selectmen meetings — then threaten to cut him off after a political disagreement.
“When ever I did something that she didn’t like or agree with, she would smile and tell me ‘no more root beer.’ It was one of those funny things that I will always remember about her. She was tough when she needed to be but had that soft caring side,” Miller said.
“Her passing is deeply saddening to me personally, but even more so to Democrats, her fellow Selectmen, and the community as a whole,” Behuniak said. “Karen was never afraid to speak her mind and fight for what she felt was right even when the odds were against her. I will miss serving with her and remain thankful for all that she taught me.”
Click this link to read the obituary.