Stephen Kaminski, 41, killed in crash with Commerce chief

April 08, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Stephen C. Kaminski, a Baltimore native and U.S. Department of Commerce employee, died Wednesday in the Balkan air crash that killed Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown and 33 others on a trade-building mission to Bosnia. Mr. Kaminski was 41.

Mr. Kaminski was a counselor for commercial affairs assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria, where his territory included the war-torn Balkan region.

"He was on the plane because he had the contacts," said his brother, Richard Kaminski of Baltimore. "He knew the people and the place. He had traveled in Croatia."

"Steve was the one that laid the groundwork for him [Mr. Brown] to travel there," said Mr. Kaminski's father, Edward Kaminski of Baltimore.

"He always knew what he wanted to do," said his mother, Vera Kaminski. "He was an easy person to know. He went into trade-related commerce. He traveled a lot."

Mr. Kaminski was born in Baltimore and graduated from an accelerated program at Loyola High School, where he participated in theater, managed the lacrosse team, volunteered as a tutor and won several speech competitions.

He entered Georgetown University, majoring in economics and graduating in 1975 from its School of Foreign Service. He then began a 21-year career with the Department of Commerce in Washington.

In addition to Vienna, Mr. Kaminski's foreign assignments included several years each in Dusseldorf and Hamburg, Germany, and in Tokyo. His work included promoting American companies' experience in the global marketplace, with trade fairs, seminars and product presentations.

At a 1994 ceremony in Washington, he received the Commerce Department's Gold Medal Award for his work on "a ground-breaking agreement" that opened Japan's public-works market to American companies.

Between foreign assignments, Mr. Kaminski was assigned to Washington and, at different times, had a house in either Annapolis or Baltimore. He maintained his interest in tutoring, volunteering at Loyola and at the Johns Hopkins University, and took in foreign exchange students.

"He was such a bright, vigorous person, who had done so much good," said Dorothy Wisniewski, a longtime neighbor and friend of the Kaminski family in their small Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Cedarhurst. "He was outgoing, loving and giving."

On Saturday, family members attended a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where President Clinton praised those "who ended their lives on a hard mountain a long way from home."

"It was a beautiful ceremony," said Mr. Kaminski's mother, who said she was comforted by the praise for her son from those who knew him.

"These were people who had contact with him and worked with him all these years, and they appreciated his leadership," she said. " 'Steve was a joy to work with' -- I heard that so many times . They said nothing seemed to be too much trouble for him. He was always willing to help people in his department and in the various countries where he worked."

Funeral arrangements were incomplete yesterday.

Other survivors include his wife of 18 years, the former Kathleen Sader; a daughter, Christina Kaminski; a sister, Vera Ellen Saxton of West Grove, Pa.; and several nieces and nephews.

Pub Date: 4/08/96

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