(KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

About a month ago, Lisa Zielinski stood in front of the congregation at St. Edward Catholic Church and told a story.

Sadly, the testimony is secondhand, as she was found dead in her home Wednesday morning in north Keizer at the age of 38. Her husband, Peter J. Zielinski, has been charged with her murder.

But to Mary Opra, who attended church with Zielinski, it’s no less poignant.

“She told the story of her (kindergarten-age) daughter – right after she was picking her up from a religious class – she said ‘Mommy, what are you doing to volunteer?’”

Zielinski shared the story with the parish, and it left an impression.

“I was so touched she shared that story, and that her daughter motivated her,” Opra said. “Obviously she was a mom first and foremost. It’s funny how we learn from our children as much as they” learn from us.”

Zielinski attended North Salem High School, singing in the choir, and at one point aspired to be a model. Lisa Franceschi-Campbell helped sponsor Zielinski’s first trip to Asia for a modeling shoot.

“She was very good as a hand model,” said Franceschi-Campbell, who met Zielinski when she was Lisa Allen, age 17. “The smile she presented to the world was just as beautiful on the inside as it was on the out. She was genuine, beautiful and hard-working.”

Franceschi-Campbell said the joke was that she and her friend were “bookends” because they were both named Lisa.

Brandon Bay knew her since they were small children.

“Everyone’s heartbroken,” Bay said. “She was an angel. She still is. It’s just horrific.”

Bay too knew her husband – “I pray for both of them. It’s a horrific, horrific thing, those sweet girls to be without two parents is just disheartening.”

After a career that included jewelry sales and banking, her most recent job was at KYKN-AM as an account representative and public relations specialist.

Being younger, she understood online social networking and dramatically enhanced the station’s online presence, said General Manager Mike Frith.

“She had a strong position here – very well thought of,” he said.

The oft-buzzing atmosphere of the station, with its constant and frantic deadlines, has fallen near silent with the death of their friend, he said.

“People are in shock,” he said. “We’re a team of 12, and I don’t even know how to put it in words. We really, really thought a lot of her.

“She’s a real integral part of what we do, her smile just lifts things,” he said. “Devastated is the word.”

Frith said they searched the community to fill what was a new position, “she molded it to her and it fit perfect.

“Being a younger woman, (she had) strong electronic know-how to help us become more Facebook and social networking-oriented. She really molded the position to fit her. She was upbeat, bright and could communicate extraordinarily well with people,” Frith said.

Her husband, Pete, worked part-time at the Kroc Center, and Frith described Lisa as “the breadwinner” for the family.

“(But) who could have anticipated anything like this? We’re all people, most of us have marriages of some sort. But gosh. This? Who could know?”

Zielinski represented KYKN to various chambers of commerce throughout the area. At the Keizer Chamber, she had served as a greeter. Christine Dieker, executive director of Keizer’s chamber, said the news was “like a sharp knife … somebody so young and full of the world, a mother and community service person, and a wife, would be gone.”

Motherhood and faith played key roles in Zielinski’s life, friends said. Bay said Zielinski embraced Catholicism at Queen of Peace Church in south Salem, later migrating to St. Edward Catholic Church, where she sang in the choir.

“She embraced the Catholic faith because of her marriage to Pete,” Franceschi-Campbell said, adding that raising her children in a Christian environment was important to Zielinski. “Her church family was very important to her, and she embraced her faith whole-heartedly.”
Franceschi-Campbell said Zielinski was “never a party girl – her kids were the most important thing, and that’s what she focused on. She loved being a mother.

“It was a tragic loss, and her friends and family are going to grieve for a very, very long time.”