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ERVING - Rae A. (Lattinville) Kowacki, 90, died Sunday afternoon, October 15, 2023 at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield due to complications of heart failure and pneumonia. Nine decades of laughter ended peacefully, with multiple generations of family surrounding Rae.
The point of life, to Rae, was to enjoy it. She created fun wherever she went. Born Rae Alma Lattinville to Lionel and Marguerite Lattinville on April 9, 1933 in Athol, Rae quickly became a known presence in the community. As a child, Rae and her pals got up to all kinds of shenanigans, calling themselves the “South Main Street Gang.” She was also an honor student and a drummer in the marching band at Athol High School.
While in x-ray technician school in Springfield, Rae Lattinville met Alvin Mieczyslaw Kowacki on the dance floor at the local Polish club. In her matter-of-fact manner, Rae told a friend that night, “I’m going to marry that man,” and in 1954, she did — and the pair continued to dance together for decades. Rae and Alvin settled first in Easthampton and Williamsburg, before moving their family to Erving in 1968 to operate the Erving Country Store. For the next 15 years, Rae presided over the cash register and counter, socializing with customers and turning the store into a gathering place for the people of Erving.
After retiring from the store, Rae and Alvin traveled the US, Canada, Mexico, and Ireland visiting old friends and making new ones. They became half-year residents of Barefoot Bay, Fla. in 1998.
Family and community were of the utmost importance to Rae. She made everyone around her feel treasured. Indeed, she turned many friends into family, with an ever-growing number of people calling her “Grammy Rae.” If a storm was coming or you were ill, you were sure to get a phone call from Rae to check on you. “It’s me, your mother,” she’d announce herself when calling, just in case her distinctive cheer wasn’t enough identification.
Rae was her children and grandchildren’s biggest cheerleader at sporting events and performances, and a big fan of parades. She was part of the Maharajas, a fundraising group for the band and choir at Mahar Regional School, where her six children attended. Rae shared her love for the beach with her children and grandchildren on trips to Prince Edward Island in Canada, always dressing her children in matching, bright red and orange bathing suits so she could keep track of them. Rae, Alvin and their flock of grandchildren were also a fixture at Laurel Lake in the summers.
Life with Rae was never dull. Everything she did, she did with a flourish, often dressed head-to-toe in bright pink, orange, or some other shade of highlighter. Her hijinks with her childhood friends in the streets of Athol and later at the Erving Senior Center were legendary. With unrestrained one-liners, silly Christmas card photos, and imaginative observations of strangers, Rae was bound to make you laugh, even if it was just from the contagion of her hooting, rolling chuckles.
Spiritually, Rae had a particular devotion to Mary, Jesus’ mother here on Earth. She said her Rosary daily, and was diligent about her children getting their early, foundational grounding in the Catholic Christian faith. She herself was raised in Our Lady Immaculate parish in Athol. Survivors include her sister Linda (Lattinville) Wojtowski; her children, Dr. Paul Kowacki and wife Laura of Walpole, Maine, Diane Bledsoe of Barefoot Bay, Fla., Dale Kowacki and spouse Laura Botkin of Wendell, Jean Kowacki of Englewood, Fla., Janet Richards of Franklin; daughter-in-law Alicin McGrath; 12 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and 4 nieces.
She was preceded in death by her husband of nearly 50 years, Alvin, in 2003; three sons: Mark (1955), Thomas (1960), and Captain Lee V. Kowacki, US Army (1997); and daughter-in-law Christine Kowacki (2017).
Rae’s family expresses a special thanks to her loving team of caregivers: Sara, Shelley, Olive, Angie, and Adrian.
Calling hours will be held at Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street in Orange from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, October 23, 2023.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Tuesday, October 24 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Church, 19 Congresst Street in Orange.
Interment to follow in Erving Center Cemetery.
Donations can be made in Rae’s name to the cause of your choice or the American Heart Association, the North Quabbin Regional Animal Shelter in Athol, the March of Dimes, or the Friends of the Erving Senior Center.
Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, is assisting the family.
Guest book and directions online at WWW.WITTYFUNERALHOME.COM