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Honoring Nancy Stanek’s memory

Who was Nancy Stanek?

A devoted wife to Gilbert, a loving mother to Marshall, Keith and Sarah, a caring grandmother to her grand children. And, a humanitarian with a golden heart to help the downtrodden and oppressed people in America and the whole world. She indeed practiced what Jesus Christ and Christianity had taught her. She was compassionate but had an intense passion to seek and work for peace — the inner personal peace and that between tribes and nations. I will proudly call her a Great Woman.

I first met Nancy in the winter of 1968 months after I had arrived in Fort Dodge as a foreign student from Iran (at that time Iranian government was a close ally of the U.S. government) to attend community college. Nancy and Gib found me through the student counselor at the college. They invited me to their home on the farm for dinner and opened their lives and hearts to me. I became fond of their children and grew to become their admiring friend. For many years after I had moved on to more college and life in Minnesota and beyond, I would visit them from time to time and have the most stimulating discussions about farming, family life, Iowa, world events, Vietnam War, their business activities, racism, Republicans and Democrats, Thomas Jefferson, and, the essence of America. I became amazed at their intelligence, insight and knowledge of national and international affairs. I felt lucky to have them show me how one could be a committed patriot and world citizen simultaneously. How generosity and compassion was part of the American Creed. How decency and hope can lead us out of misery. How love can triumph over partisan politics (Nancy was a Democrat and Gib the chair of the county Republican Party). That inner respect for entreaty and democracy, the courage to love while in disagreement, the benevolence that the Vietnamese were also equal human beings, that generosity of spirit, the inexorable quest for truth, and the eternal optimism for humanity became the guiding mottos of my life.

Gib was a brilliant farmer, banker and businessman with utmost integrity and drive. But Nancy steered him more toward “love thy neighbor” mentality, in Fort Dodge, in Iowa, in United States and the world. I believe she really guided him to become a successful businessman with a deep social conscience. Yes, Nancy was a great lady with that infection smile and her relentless passion to love others beyond her circle of family and friends.

She will always be alive for me.

Mehr Jay Shahidi

Minneapolis, Minnesota