Alexandria, VA - Mary Kathryn Barsdate passed away on June 12, 2022, the morning of Pentecost for Orthodox Christians. She is survived by her daughters Kelly J. Barsdate (Laura S. Smith) of Gaithersburg, MD; Lory Ann Barsdate Easton (Robert E. Easton) of Alexandria, VA; and grandchildren Kathryn Rose and Robert Victor.
Mary Kay was born on April 28, 1933 to Stephen and Kathryn (Shuster) Haschak in the small coal mining town of Windber, PA. Although an only child, she grew up in the embrace of a large extended Carpatho-Russian family. Her work ethic was honed early in her parents’ grocery, Hackey’s Food Market, in Holsopple, PA. She attended Allegheny College, where she met Robert John Barsdate (1934-2021). The two were married in 1959 and embarked on an adventurous life together. The young couple moved to Fairbanks, Alaska and raised their family in the Last Frontier. They traveled to Europe and Mexico multiple times and took extended road trips throughout Alaska and the “Lower 48” in a Cruise Master RV (which, incredibly, Mary Kay could parallel park). After living in the frozen north for 50 years, they ultimately retired to Marco Island, Florida, where Mary Kay adored the warmth and the glorious sunshine. Mary Kay and Bob were intrepid survivors of multiple earthquakes including Alaska’s Good Friday Earthquake in 1964, the Great Flood of 1967 in Fairbanks, and Hurricanes Wilma and Irma in Florida. For nearly seven decades, Mary Kay’s annual Christmas letters updated her extended family on her adventures. She eventually relinquished her beloved IBM Selectric typewriter and produced them on a computer.
Mary Kay was passionate about education, literacy and the arts. She earned her Bachelors in English and Masters in Education from Allegheny and went on to teach high school, college and adult vocational courses. She tutored learners young and old throughout her life. When she was elected to serve on the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board, her campaign bumper stickers read, “Have you hugged your kid today?” After moving to Marco Island, Mary Kay continued her teaching career well into her 80s, guiding book discussion groups and leading water aerobics classes to her signature soundtrack from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
Mary Kay served on the Fairbanks Library Commission, the Library Foundation, the Fairbanks Arts Association, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Arts Alaska, Inc., the Literacy Council of Alaska, and many other community boards. She was recognized with an Alaska Governor’s Award for the Arts (1986) and was named an Honorary Member by the Alaska Library Foundation (1992). Wherever she lived, Mary Kay was a “frequent flier” at her local library. She enjoyed symphony, chamber music, dance, and musical theater performances in Fairbanks, Naples, Marco Island, and Alexandria.
A devout Orthodox Christian, Mary Kay was one of the founders of the mission parish that became St. Herman’s Orthodox Church in Fairbanks, AK, the farthest north Orthodox parish in the United States. Mary Kay taught Sunday school there as well as at St. Demetrius Orthodox Church in Naples, FL. Mary Kay was honored with the Order of Saint Herman of Alaska in recognition of her lifetime of work for the church. With her recent move to Virginia, Mary Kay returned to her mission roots, worshiping at All Saints of America Orthodox Mission in Alexandria, VA.
Mary Kay was petite in stature but strong in spirit. She was a crack shot with a rifle and fiercely independent while also being a steadfast friend and generous neighbor. She was deeply devoted to her husband Bob, supporting him through a long illness until his death in 2021, and to her grandchildren, who adored their Baba.
On Saturday, June 18, a visitation (1:30 - 3:30 p.m.) and prayer service (2:30 p.m.) will be held at Everly Funeral Home on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church, VA. On Monday, June 20, a visitation (9:30 a.m.), funeral (10:00 a.m.) and burial will be held at Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church on Hoffman Farm Road in Windber, PA (service livestream at https://www.facebook.com/Saints-Peter-Paul-Orthodox-Church-288214947863156).
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made “In Memory of Mary Kay Barsdate” to the Fairbanks Library Foundation (thelibraryfoundation.org/donate), Friends of the Library of Collier County (collier-friends.org/donate), or All Saints of North America Orthodox Church (orthodoxalexandria.org).