Carol Hajek was a 7-year-old reading the Sunday comics in Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941, when her father heard an explosion.
Her father, Lt. Cmdr. Allan Muncey, who was in charge of harbor defense at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, turned on the radio. Moments later he rushed out of the house.
Though wounded by shrapnel, Allan Muncey was not among the more than 2,400 Americans killed in the attack. He helped capture the commander of a Japanese suicide submarine that had run aground.
Mrs. Hajek would grow up, raise a family and serve for nine years on the Seminole City Council.
Her family had kept souvenirs of Pearl Harbor, clippings and pieces of a Japanese bomber. Mrs. Hajek and her mother, Elinor, looked through a scrapbook every Dec. 7 and viewed another keepsake — the khaki cap once worn by Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, the submarine's commander.
Sakamaki had wanted to die in the attack. Instead he became known as the first Japanese prisoner of war captured by Americans in World War II. He later became a pacifist and published his memoirs, I Attacked Pearl Harbor. Sakamaki returned to Japan and later became an executive for Toyota. He died in 1999
Mrs. Hajek died May 25 in a nursing home, where she had lived the last few years, her family said. She was 79.
She retained darker memories also, the kind that can't be returned to a bookshelf.
"I still have a momentary fright when I hear planes overhead, and the sound of certain sirens can stop me in my tracks," she wrote in a Times column in 1991.
Though the past stayed with Mrs. Hajek, it did not slow her down.
She was born Carol Muncey in Philadelphia in 1934. She moved to Seminole in 1957, two years before one of the town's founders built its first grocery store.
She met Keith Hajek while both worked at an electronics plant. They married and had a daughter, Karen, and a son, Dean (who died at 11 due to a heart defect).
In the late 1970s Mrs. Hajek got involved in real estate. She became a broker and managed several offices.
She enjoyed outdoor vacations with her husband. They spent some Thanksgivings camping with a group of friends at Fort De Soto Park and dove for lobster in the Keys.
At 60, Mrs. Hajek ran for a seat on the Seminole City Council, losing by a dozen votes. She attended meetings anyway to represent the Greater Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce. She was appointed a year later to finish the unexpired term of another member who was ill.
Mrs. Hajek then ran successfully for the seat four straight times. On her watch, the city of Seminole acquired a fire department, built a recreation center and created a joint-use library with St. Petersburg College.
"She took it very seriously," said former Mayor Dottie Reeder. "She never missed a meeting."
County Commissioner Janet Long, who served on the Seminole council with her, described Mrs. Hajek as a "lovely, gentle woman who wasn't controversial, she wasn't out there with outrageous ideas."
"She just did her job. We could use a little more of that, couldn't we?"
Mrs. Hajek stepped down in 2003, saying she wanted to spend more time traveling with her husband. She remembered every Pearl Harbor Day, at least until her memory faded, perusing the artifacts her family had saved.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.