When Rose Tani, 90, died tragically on Dec. 19 after her car was struck by a train in Lombard, Ill., the story attracted international attention.
Tani's youngest son, NASA astronaut Daniel Tani, is aboard the International Space Station, and her death marked the first time in history that a U.S. astronaut has had to cope with an immediate family member's death while on a space mission.
But what most news reports failed to mention was the Tani family's deep connections to the UCC.
Rose Tani's late husband, the Rev. Henry Tani, was a UCC leader. During World War II, both were detained at Utah's Topaz internment camp.
Henry Tani went on to serve as the church's national director of youth ministries. He died of a heart attack in 1965, leaving the widowed Rose Tani to raise five children alone.
She was a member of First Church of Lombard (Ill.) UCC, where — despite her advanced years — she remained an active volunteer and gave generously of her time and money.
"Rose was a remarkable woman of purpose and intention and compassion and faith and love," said the Rev. Rob Hatfield, senior minister, at a funeral service held at the church. More than 600 people attended.
"This isn't because of her famous son," Kathy Bafundo, a church member and friend told the Chicago Tribune. "The church still would be full with people because she was so loved and so respected."