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SOUTH KINGSTOWN – South Kingstown High School teacher and local resident Missy Stark died Tuesday after a four month battle with bilinary tract cancer. Stark, 34, was a mother of three, adored teacher and community volunteer.
“I am so sorry to have to share the news that our beloved high school teacher, Missy Stark, passed away last evening,“ Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow said in a statement. “The South Kingstown educational community is devastated by the loss of our talented colleague and friend. Missy impacted so many lives as a teacher, parent and community member. She is a symbolic leader of great teaching, true passion for her children and unwavering professionalism. She will be dearly missed.”
Stark was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in April. She and her family traveled to Michigan where she underwent experimental treatment at the University of Michigan Hospital. The treatment was ultimately unsuccessful and Stark and her family returned to Rhode Island in May.
"On behalf of the school committee, we all deeply regret the passing of Missy Stark," said Maureen Cotter, chair of the South Kingstown School Committee. "It is a huge loss and a very sad time for the SK school community. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Missy's family and her friends."
Throughout her battle, Stark maintained a journal on her website, where she and guests shared photos and she received words of encouragement from site visitors.
After her passing, her husband John Stark wrote an entry.
“Her fight was an incredible four month battle,” John Stark wrote. “I feel she won as she found time to spend with many that she loved. Her biggest fear was not knowing someone she was directly close to in heaven.”
One night prior to her passing, Missy Stark’s father, Roger Cook, passed away. Of this John Stark wrote, “My thoughts are is that both are together looking down at us.”
Missy Stark’s battle prompted a community wide effort to raise funds to help defray medical expenses and encourage her to be strong in her fight against cancer. The slogan, “Kick Butt Missy!” was seen widely around town, and even spread throughout New England and around the nation.
Signs displaying the phrase were posted at the dry cleaner on Main Street in Wakefield, the Ryan Center in Kingston, on the side of Dennis Moffitt Painting on Route 108 and throughout South Kingstown.
Even Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski was seen holding a “Kick Butt Missy” sign.
Stark’s battle inspired Ally Marcellino, 12, a student at Curtis Corner Middle School, to spread awareness and help out her best friend’s mom.
“She took $60 from her own savings account and ordered 100 wrist bands with “Kick Butt Missy,” wrote Wakefield’s Bill Matuszak in a letter to the Narragansett Times in April. “Everyone started asking for wristbands so Ally enlisted the help of friends and family to start a fundraiser with the wristbands.”
Of late, the guestbook on Missy Stark’s website is filled with words of condolence and notes of sadness regarding the loss of a wonderful woman.
The website is: www.caringbridge.org/visit/missycookstark
In his last journal post, John Stark said that funeral arrangements have not yet been made