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‘We are here to celebrate Keri.’ Mourners say final goodbye to beloved teacher

To change a person’s life for the better requires only a moment of time.

Keri Lynn Stromski lived her life by that motto as a teacher at Aquebogue Elementary School, where she inspired countless students, and as a fierce advocate for fellow cancer thrivers, an unforeseen role she accepted to bring hope to those in need as she bravely confronted her own fate with stage four breast cancer.

Jill Kubetz, Ms. Stromski’s sister, said that moment of time, along with compassion and a hug, can make all the difference.

“We know this because we hugged the entire Town of Riverhead over the past two days,” she said.

Speaking at a Funeral Mass at St. Isidore R.C. Church in Riverhead Monday morning, Ms. Kubetz remembered her sister, who died April 6 at age 48, as a loving mother would could be heard screaming “Go! Go! Go!” over the sound of splashing water at her children’s swim meets and as a teacher who left an indelible mark on young students.

“Today, we are here to celebrate Keri,” Ms. Kubetz said. “We do so as a family, as a community, to give honor to the profound ways in which she touched the lives of those she knew and those she never met.”

Ms. Stromski documented her journey with breast cancer — which she was first diagnosed with in 2016 — through a blog titled “Faith over Fear.” She emphasized in her writing how cancer patients never “lose the battle” when they die. She fought not only for more research into the disease, but for greater understanding of the challenge and turmoil a cancer patient faces. She eschewed the commercialization of companies selling breast cancer awareness products and focused on those who committed 100% of proceeds to the cause.

“To summarize one’s life as a ‘lost battle’ diminishes the years of living that existed,” Ms. Stromski wrote in a July 2019 post, sharing words written by another in a private cancer group. “It dilutes the magic of the soul that walked through the years that they were given here.”

Keri Stromski pictured alongside Stony Brook Medicine staff in March. (Courtesy photo)

Ms. Kubetz said that legacy will carry on in the women her sister empowered.

Ms. Stromski grew up in Vally Stream and attended college at SUNY Cortland before ultimately settling in Jamesport with her husband Rob and their three children.

“They were all her hometowns and always would be,” Ms. Kubetz said. “Keri brought her light to all of the places she lived and if she loved you, you have a cheerleader for life.”

Jason Hefter, who described the Stromski’s as like family, spoke for Mr. Stromski at the Mass, sharing words he had prepared.

In the remarks, Mr. Stromski shared a memory of the night he first met his future wife, and how the next day he reached out to his mother to tell her he had found the one. His mission from that point forward was to do whatever he could to make her his wife. He called her his princess. And then his miracle.

“Because God gave me the miracle to share a life with this wonderful woman,” he said.

When they first met he was drawn to her blue eyes and “gorgeous blonde, curly hair,” even if he eventually found out she was wearing colored contacts and had dyed her hair.

“Truth be told, I loved her no matter what,” he said. “That was our saying to each other.”

He recalled the passion his wife displayed for her students, many of whom she kept in touch with as they grew older. She had thousands of Facebook contacts to keep up with. She would run into former students when out in town, and always remember each one.

In recent years during her sickness, even on days where she was feeling tired and unwell, she found the strength to “perk up” when someone reached out in need of something, knowing she needed to provide that hope. 

Mr. Stromski said his wife “amazed” him.

“She loved everyone and all she wanted was to be loved,” he said. “You all have shown her that. She was loved and felt it when it counted.”

Ms. Stromski is survived by her children Madison, Morgan and Quinn. 

Donations in Ms. Stromski’s memory can be made to the Alison Stopeck Research Fund at Stony Brook University Cancer Center. A GoFundMe page has also been created that will go toward her children’s education. Within one day, it had already surpassed $12,000 toward a goal of $75,000.

Ms. Stromski was laid to rest at St. Isidore Cemetery.

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