Stan lifts a bucket of donated food collected during a recent annual Letter Carriers Food Drive. Taking his photo is Joan Bates, North Adams postmaster.
Many of you likely have heard by now the very sad news of the untimely and unexpected passing on Saturday of Stan Owczarski, food pantry volunteer, NBIAI Board member, good friend.
Stan was a strong, noble, humorous and compassionate man.
He showed up to volunteer at the Friendship Center one day during the first year of the food pantry in 2011 and gradually took on increasing responsibilities. He became our second volunteer coordinator two years ago and joined our board of directors and finance committee.
Stan doing the grilling at the 2015 Friendship Center volunteer picnic he held at his home.
As volunteer coordinator Stan did many important things. For the last two years he and his wife, Joan, hosted our annual volunteer cookout at his home in North Adams. Stan for the past two years also coordinated concession volunteers from the Friendship Center at several SteepleCats baseball games to raise funds.
In recent years, Stan became the captain for the front of the Friendship Center during the daytime session on Wednesdays. As such, he kept the flow of pantry visitors going, oversaw cab and volunteer rides, and generally insured safety and a positive, friendly atmosphere. I always knew things were in good hands.
Safety was important to Stan, a longtime member of the Ski Patrol and he made sure we have a good stock of emergency medical supplies on site. Early on, at the invitation of our first volunteer coordinator, Denise Krutiak, Stan gave the volunteers a useful instructional workshop on safety.
Stan had a great rapport with our food pantry guests, and they will miss him as much as we will. To help make the Friendship Center a welcoming place, he worked with Louise Zocchi to regularly update our front display window area to reflect the seasons with well-done decorating.
Part of my personal shock on hearing the news was that Stan was such a vigorous man. The term “force of nature” comes to mind. He was an outdoorsman, a bicyclist and a skier, as noted above. It may have been during the summer about a year ago, I was driving south down Route 8 in Vermont in the virtually uninhabited area of south Readsboro and north Stamford. All of sudden, there’s Stan on his bicycle, miles from North Adams. I knew he’d have no trouble getting home, so I didn’t stop!
Stan in his Yankee hat with our friend Keith the mailman.
One thing about Stan that kept things interesting was that he was a very passionate New York Yankee fan among mostly Red Sox fans. This insured a continuing running battle of quips and insults over the merits of the rival baseball teams — all in good fun, of course!
I was planning to write a post this week about happy things such as our last public meeting, new board members, big donations and the Friendship Center’s upcoming fifth anniversary. And I still wish I was, because it would mean that this good man would still be among us.
I met Stan, a fellow Roman Catholic, about 10 years ago, when St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church was trying to restart its St. Vincent de Paul Society local conference. I didn’t know him very well and neither of us became longtime members of that group. But Stan became one of many people I have come to know and love through the six years of the NBIAI and the Friendship Center Food Pantry.
Not that he and I always saw completely eye to eye, but we always worked things out, quickly and without rancor. Stan's generosity helped a lot. He saw I carried around important NBIAI/food pantry papers in a crummy old, ripped satchel, so he found me a nice new one. He thought I could use a laptop for NBIAI/Friendship Center business and found me one that has worked out very well.
So, sometimes goodbyes seem to take forever; other times you don’t get to say goodbye at all. This was one of the latter. But I – and many others, I am sure – are grateful for having to gotten to know Stan, and I thank God for that.
Our deepest condolences to Joan, their children and grandchildren and the rest of Stan's family and many friends.
Goodbye, Stan. Thanks for everything. Hope to see you on the other side.
Stan takes a break with Steve Green during a recent Letter Carrier Food Drive. Below, Stan and Anne Nelson at the front desk at our original location at 43 Eagle St. in North Adams.
Above is a photo of Stan, me and fellow NBIAI/Friendship Center board member and volunteer Corinne Case at a health fair that was organized at St. Elizabeth Parish by Denise Vigna. Stan went around to every table, talking to people and collecting pens, information and other goodies. Judy Bombardier took this photo for us with my phone.
Here, Stan, in red jacket, standing sideways to the camera, is ready to help unload the truck with food one Tuesday. What makes this photo especially moving is that the man with his back to the camera in black jacket is Henry Bounds, another of our great-hearted volunteers, who also passed away suddenly. We also fondly remember Rose Maynard and Jim May.