Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Freda Kowalski

This proper English lady never owned jeans, sweats

SEMINOLE — Freda Kowalski was a petite firecracker, 100 pounds, a faint English accent. Each morning, she did her hair and makeup, even if she had no plans to leave home.

She never owned jeans or sweatpants. Never drove. She bought tennis shoes once, when she thought she might go walking with her lady friends. But it never happened.

She made delicious lemon merengue pie. Come 6 p.m., her table always bore perfect place settings. She loved her children and her husband, a quiet, sweet man named Louis.

It was World War II when they met. He was an American solider, she was a member of the British Women's Land Army. He took her to a restaurant for the first time in her life.

Mrs. Kowalski lived in an English town rife with danger. She couldn't leave home without a gas mask. The sewing factory where she worked was bombed. Moving to America was an easy choice.

In Pennsylvania, the couple had two children. Mrs. Kowalski taught her daughter to tap dance in the kitchen. She took the kids camping and read them Uncle Wiggily books.

The couple eventually retired to Seminole. She dreamed of having dinner at "that big pink building," the Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa.

But in 1995, Mr. Kowalski started getting confused, forgetting to put the car in park. As the Alzheimer's worsened, his wife realized there were things she didn't know. How to manage a checkbook. How to handle complicated paperwork.

It was time to evolve.

Carol Lemieux, a neighbor in the couple's mobile home park, helped. Lemieux, 61, drove the couple to the doctor, to Publix. She'd sit on a bench with Mr. Kowalski while his wife shopped. He'd ask, "Where's the lady?"

Mrs. Kowalski became her husband's boldest defender. She fed him and spoke up if nursing home service was subpar. She became powerful. And after five years with the disease, he died.

As a widow, Mrs. Kowalski kept busy with bingo. She and Lemieux shopped every weekend, armed with coupons. They laughed in the aisles like sisters. On her 80th birthday, Mrs. Kowalski finally had dinner at "that big pink building."

Then, when she faced lung cancer, Lemieux packed picnic baskets. They went to the hospital for chemotherapy and lunch.

The cancer spread to her brain, and a few months ago, she went to Erie, Pa., to be with her family. She didn't always know who the get-well cards were from, but she giggled each time one arrived.

Mrs. Kowalski died Monday. She was 83.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

>>BIOGRAPHY

Freda Kowalski

Born: April 20, 1924.

Died: March 3, 2008.

Survivors: son, Louis Jack Kowalski and wife Nancy; daughter, Christine Ruvelo and husband Joe; grandchildren, Tammy Leigh Wright, Sharie Lynn Argeny and husband Trevor, Jami Ann D'Angelo and husband Mike, and Brian Ruvelo; great-grandchildren, Sarah, Scott, Marissa, Rachel and Hayley.

This proper English lady never owned jeans, sweats 03/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 9:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]