One Lawrence 'kid' lends a hand to another

CARL RUSSO/Staff photo Lorraine Kowalczyk, who will be 97 this summer, and her late husband, Edward Kowalczyk, (together in photo) set up a fund to benefit a graduate of St. Patrick Grammar School, now Lawrence Catholic Academy. The first recipient of the scholarship is Angelique Alon of Lawrence. The scholarship will cover tuition for her senior year at Central Catholic High School.

LAWRENCE — Lorraine Kowalczyk and Angelique Alon are almost 80 years apart in age, but they have much in common: They're both "Lawrence kids"  – and strivers, too.

Kowalczyk, who will turn 97 in August, and her late husband, Edward Kowalczyk, decided some time ago that they wanted part of their estate to benefit a graduate of St. Patrick Grammar School.

Edward, who died in March 2018 at 93, graduated from St. Patrick before he attended Lawrence High School. St. Patrick and Our Lady of Good Counsel schools were merged in 2010 and formed Lawrence Catholic Academy.

The academy is situated in the former St. Patrick School building at 101 Parker St.

The Kowalczyks were not going to give their money to just any student. They decided the recipient must be a Lawrence resident, earn excellent grades and help the community.

Lorraine Kowalczyk approached Central Catholic President Christopher Sullivan recently and asked him to recommend a recipient. He suggested Angelique Alon, who will soon begin her senior year at Central.

"She was the first one who came to his mind," Kowalczyk said.

Alon, who lives in Lawrence, attended Lawrence Catholic Academy before enrolling at Central Catholic. She has participated in the swim and gymnastics teams and theater.

Alon was instrumental in establishing SCOPE, which stands for Students Can Open People's Eyes. This club helps students who have problems discuss their situations in a confidential, nonjudgmental environment, Alon explained.

Part of the club's focus is on students from minority groups. The purpose is to assure them they are "not alone," she said.

Alon also helped institute Cultural Diversity Day at Central Catholic. This event encourages students from a particular ethnic background to share their food and culture.

She has big plans for her future. She aspires to become a neurosurgeon. Her "dream school," she said, is Northeastern University.

"I am so grateful," she said of the help she is getting from Kowalczyk. She was "completely surprised," she said, when Sullivan told her that her tuition for next year is covered. Yearly tuition at Central Catholic is $13,995, according to the school's website.

With her high marks and drive, Alon is on her way to achieving her goal. 

Many years ago, Kowalczyk also earned high marks and demonstrated drive. Raised in South Lawrence – her family lived on Groton Street – she is of French Canadian heritage. Her maiden name was Derouin.

When Lorraine Derouin was about to graduate from Sacred Heart High School in 1940, the owner of Haffner's gas stations asked the nuns to recommend a reliable person whom he would hire to work in his office.

"Of course they picked me," Kowalczyk said. She started as a bookkeeper and ended up working for Haffner's for 73 years. She retired in 2013 as the office manager.

She never held another job – and never filled out a job application. Asked why she worked past the age of 90, she said the Haffners and other fellow workers were like family to her.

The Kowalczyks were married for 71 years. They did not have any children.

Edward graduated from the Peterson School of Steam Engineering and earned a first class steam engineering license. He was employed by the Lawrence, Mystic Valley and Boston gas companies for many years. He retired as superintendent of propane operations at Boston Gas.

He was known for being an accomplished gardener who grew vegetables and flowers that commanded the admiration of his neighbors.

The Edward J. and Lorraine G. Kowalczyk Scholarship Fund will perpetuate their memory by benefiting other Lawrence students for many years to come. 

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