Kay Vasilakis remembered for big heart, gift for words
When it came to a sensitive human interest story involving the good works of one of the area human service organizations and its everyday impacts on people’s lives, Kay Vasilakis could put the necessary caring, compassionate touch to it.
“We will miss the magic she created on her keyboard, and the gifting she gave personally with her big hug and big heart,” said Sean Jeung, a chaplain with the Hospice of the Valley organization, one of the many subjects of Vasilakis’ writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent in recent years.
A beloved longtime community volunteer and former community editor for the Post Independent, who had continued to pen a regular column for the newspaper, Vasilakis died unexpectedly Thursday morning at her home in Rifle as a result of a heart attack. She was 59.
Vasilakis had been a member of the Garfield County Human Services Commission since 1997, and was instrumental in the annual Garfield County Humanitarian Service Awards for many years. She also served on the Commission’s grant allocation committee.
She was the community editor for the Post Independent from 2002-2009, writing and editing submitted community news items, as well as writing obituaries and various feature stories. She also penned the weekly Nonprofit Spotlight and New Castle News columns.
In April 2008, she wrote an article about the local Hospice organization’s use of the Holistic Harmony Transitional Chorus, which would sing to Hospice patients who were in their last hours of life.
“After singing for the hospice patient, the Holistic Harmony Transitional Chorus returned to the hospital lobby, put me in the middle of their circle, and sang for me,” Vasilakis wrote in an accompanying “reporter’s note.”
“It was a true spiritual and highly emotional experience I won’t easily forget, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to appreciate this powerful yet comforting adventure,” she wrote.
That was classic Kay, said Jeung, who called Holistic Harmony director Lesa Russo upon learning the news about her death on Thursday.
“We both cried, and through our tears we shared laughter at how we always managed to make Kay cry,” Jeung said. “She was so touched by compassion and passion about what we do in hospice. We loved her for her tender heart.”
Former Post Independent managing editor Dale Shrull said Vasilakis meant a lot to the newsroom during her time with the paper.
“Kay will be missed by so many in the community,” he said. “She touched so many lives and brought so much joy to so many.
“Her dedication and desire to bring community news to the readers was always her goal,” Shrull said. “Kay’s work and tremendous devotion to the Humanitarian Awards was amazing. She made the awards a special night of celebration and she can never be completely replaced.”
Vasilakis was born in Milwaukee, Wis. and spent some of her school years in Springfield, Mo. before moving with her family to the Denver suburb of Northglenn. She graduated from Northglenn High School and later moved to Garfield County, where she lived in New Castle, Glenwood Springs and, more recently, Rifle.
She worked for the Garfield County Re-2 School District for several years before joining the Post Independent staff, serving as the district’s Learning Opportunities Center manager and handling public relations.
“It was never a question of why she did all the things she did, she just always did it,” said her daughter, Emily Hisel, of Rifle. “I really don’t know all the ways she was involved, but I think I’m going to learn a lot about her in the next few days.”
In addition to Hisel, her husband, Kris, and grandchildren Charlie, 6, and Zoe, 4, Vasilakis is survived by her mother, Ardelle Senner of Northglenn; husband Steve Vasilakis; a twin sister, Gayle Santone and her husband, John; and brother, Tim Senner and his wife, Kelley. A complete obituary will follow.
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 4 at the New Castle Community Center.
Hisel has set up a special e-mail account at email@example.com, for people to share stories about her mother.
“I would like to ask people to send me stories of how my mom touched their lives, whether it was a smile and kind wave while bringing in the trash can every week, or working hard to decide a fair way to distribute funds to worthy nonprofits throughout Garfield County.”
A Kay Vasilakis memorial fund has also been set up at Alpine Banks, and donations can be made at any Alpine Bank location in the area.
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