2011-05-12 / Community

Marie Panec, Oak Park schools leader, memorialized

By Stephanie Bertholdo

Marie Panec was loved by many, and her sudden death from a brain aneurism on May 3 at the age of 57 sent shockwaves through the community and into the hearts of those who knew her.

Tuesday, a memorial for Panec was held at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Thousand Oaks. In honor of her interfaith marriage, the Rev. Jarlath Dolan and Rabbi Alan Greenbaum presided over the memorial together.

Mary Rees, who served on the Oak Park school board with Panec and also taught with her at Moorpark College, joined current board member Jan Iceland in the eulogy.

Iceland said Marie possessed “uncommon intelligence” and always pursued higher goals. “She had to do more,” Iceland said.

Marie’s daughters, Michelle and Alicia Roll, spoke lovingly of their mother, whom they called their confidante, mentor, friend, and hero. Michelle Roll said publicly her mother was a force to be reckoned with, but in private she was vivacious, funny and “even silly.”

Alan Roll, Panec’s husband of 23 years, said people thought his family must have sacrificed a great deal because she gave so much to her job, community and myriad projects. But his wife gave as much, if not more, to her family, Roll said. She read every Harry Potter book to her daughters out loud, even when they were old enough to read on their own, he said.

Alan Roll joked that his wife was like a “pushy cheerleader.” Feeling ill and on her way to the hospital, Panec insisted that her husband first feed and water the family birds.

Father Dolan said life should be like an old tree, a branch here, a branch there. While it seems unnatural that a young tree dies, God had his reasons and “this is part of his plan.” “It’s up to us to keep that alive,” Dolan said.

Rabbi Greenbaum said Marie had “hutzpah,” which he jokingly defined as a Democrat who chooses to run for a Congressional seat in a conservative district against an longtime incumbent, and “thinking you could beat him.” Panec ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for nomination in the 24th Congressional District.

Marie’s internment at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village was presided over by Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe and Rabbi Ted Riter of Temple Adat Elohim. Cantor David Shukiar sang and played the guitar at the traditional Jewish burial. A reception hosted by Alan and Kathy Toomayan of Oak Park followed the burial.

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