In lieu of plants, flowers or food, Tina Zubeck wants you to help children. Selfless to the very end. A stalwart in the Platte City community for nearly three decades, Zubeck died Monday at her home in hospice care after a seven-month battle with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) — a type of cancer in which bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells. She was 55.
Zubeck’s final wishes weren’t for condolences but a contribution to her lifelong passion for education with a donation to the Platte County R-3 Scholarship Fund. “She meant so much to the school district,” said Platte County R-3 superintendent Dr. Mike Reik. “She was a positive advocate for children. She was a loyal Pirate. She was just a positive force in this community, and her passion — thank goodness and we were so lucky to have it — was focused toward children and serving kids and the community. “To summarize what she meant to this community, it’s a really difficult thing. She was just an important person.” Zubeck and her husband Bob were married for more than 30 years and came to Platte City in 1985. They raised three children, and all were graduates of Platte County. Bobby, 31, serves as a flight instructor for the US Navy in Coronado, Calif., set to be married on New Year’s Eve this year. Ashley DeGree, 29, lives in Hanford, Calif., with her husband Matt DeGree, and Ellen Zubeck, 26, is a marketing manager for Vevo — a digital music video production company — and lives in Santa Monica, Calif. Despite the distance from home, the Zubecks often pulled together family get-togethers or vacations in recent years, always remaining close. “I think the way she did it, every year at Christmas she would pick a really fun place,” Bobby Zubeck said mentioning Mexico and Hawaii as destinations. “It seemed to work pretty well because all of us were pretty excited to go to those places. That was her way of getting us all together.” Tina Zubeck first began work at Platte County R-3 in September of 1990, working as an assistant accountant and administrative assistant/school board secretary. Her service to the community grew from there, eventually becoming the district’s first school-community relations coordinator. Through Zubeck’s work, Platte County established a character education program called Pirates R.O.C.K. (Raising Outstanding Character Kids), and she earned a multitude of honors, including Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA) Professional of the Year, the Excellence in Education – Service to Education Award, the Missouri PTA Distinguished Service Award, National PTA Service Award, the Truman Glenn Community Service Award, and the National/Missouri PTA Life Membership Awards in addition to numerous gubernatorial appointments to Missouri boards and task forces. Tina Zubeck first found an outlet for her passion in Platte County’s PTA, eventually turning that into a career with the district and eventually taking her duties to the state and national levels. “She never thought small,” Reik said. “She’s one of the people that was just a part of the face of this district. That will be very difficult for us to replace. Thankfully, when it comes to taking care of children, it’s something that people are in general passionate about, and there will be people that step up. In my opinion, it will take several people to fulfill the role or void that Tina leaves behind, but I can tell you she left us with an excellent example of how to do that.” Doctors diagnosed Tina Zubeck with a form of lymphoma in 1997 that eventually required an autologous stem cell transplant — taking them from her own body, freezing them and later reintroducing them to her system. Despite a daunting prognosis, she went into remission in 2001.
In November of 2013, a checkup revealed signs of MDS, which doctors said could have been a result of the previous treatments. An allogeneic bone marrow donor was quickly found, and in late January, Tina Zubeck began treatment for her second harrowing battle with cancer. She maintained the upbeat attitude she’s known for displaying, complete with vibrant smile and gusto to win the fight. Tina Zubeck never spent much time worrying about her plight but instead focusing on experiencing what life had to offer. “As each of you know, I consider myself to be the luckiest gal around,” she wrote on a blog, tinazubeck.com, created to keep friends and family updated on her condition. “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the most incredible, loving husband…unbelievable children who have made me the proudest mom in the world…and the most giving, supportive friends ever!….but that truly describes me.” Doctors eventually exhausted all treatment options against MDS, and the family, including all three kids, recently spent an extended period of time at home in Platte City together. Tina Zubeck remained active until the very end. She served as National PTA secretary until a few months ago, and her retirement at Platte County didn’t become official until June 30, although frequent hospital and clinic visits and treatment kept her from her job for the last seven months. “Going through chemo and stuff like that that would just wreck people, she tried to stay busy,” Bobby Zubeck said. “That’s what she’s passionate about. When people find something to be passionate about, it’s fun to watch them to go. “I’m her son and maybe it seemed this way to me more than others, but she always seemed larger than life. She cared. She really deeply cared about her community, family, friends and education. It was evident in how she went through life.” The Zubecks will host a celebration of Tina’s life at their home located at 15900 Country Lane West in Platte City on Saturday from 4-8 p.m. The family requests that rather than condolences, people bring a note explaining how Tina touched their life. Donations to the Platte County R-3 Scholarship Fund can be mailed to District Education Center, 998 Platte Falls Road, Platte City, MO 64079, Attention: Angie Hughes.