Patricia Rowe Szydlo died peacefully at home on June 4, 2020 with her family around her. She was born in Fitchburg Massachusetts on June 13, 1933 to Arthur W Rowe and Alberta Rowe (Charbonneau). Prior to her birth the neighbor across the hall, Mary, a spinster, became cross with Alberta for expecting a baby that would disturb the peace with crying day and night. Once she met the baby she fell in love and spent many moments with the young family. The baby remained nameless for a few weeks until the three adults sat down around Mary’s kitchen table and threw their three favorite names in a bowl. They, in turn, drew a name from the bowl. Patricia was chosen twice in the first round, Arlene won in the second round, and so the child was named Patricia Arlene Rowe.
Patti grew up in Waltham Massachusetts and graduated from Waltham High School with honors. She attended the Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing for two years, but left for health reason.
As a young wife and mother, Patti resided in Waltham, MA then Portsmouth, RI then to Chelmsford MA. In 1967 she and her family settled down in Peterborough, NH where she spent the rest of her life. For many years she was a stay-at- home mother. She later worked as an operator at New England Tel& Tel. She was a cashier in a small grocery store in West Peterborough. For fifteen years she was a receptionist for the veterinarian office of Tenney, Fritz and Coombs. From there she brought her many talents to the Wilton Animal Hospital. She finished her career at Maplewood Manse, a retirement home, as administrative assistant.
Patti was one of the founding board members for AMI, the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of NH that later became NAMI as it expanded across the nation. She ran the Peterborough AMI as facilitator for many years, taught NAMI Family to Family programs to educate families dealing with mental illness. She was an “on call” contact for families in crisis to provide resources and guidance. Patti was also on the board of Monadnock Family Services. As a strong and powerful advocate for the mentally ill she was once physically removed from the office of Governor John Sununu during a meeting. Ironically, in a speaking engagement at a NAMI convention in Chicago she had the honor of introducing Governor Sununu to the audience. As always, she remained cordial and friendly.
Patti was widely known to be a great story teller. A skill that seems to run in the family. Almost nightly around the dining table and at family gatherings she would recount, in hilarious detail, stories or her father growing up in Five Islands, ME and of her exploits as a young girl. There were tales of her children's antics, family stories, and unbelievably funny stories from the vet’s office.
A family favorite is of her dad, Arthur, as a young boy and his desperate wish to fly. One day, while his mother was occupied in the front room giving birth, he took his younger brother, Sherb, upstairs. He opened the window, handed Sherb an umbrella, told him to hold on tightly, then launched him out of the window. Arthur observed him gently float to the ground. He was so excited that he bounded down the stairs, snatched the umbrella from the smaller boy, ran back to the second story window, and launched himself out into the wild, blue, yonder. He realized, too late, that size does matter as the umbrella inverted and he rapidly plummeted to the earth.
There were numerous stories of Patti’s “tomboy” ways; local boys daring her to climb telephone poles which she could do easily, times spent fishing and going on archeological digs with her father, dance recital dramas, and camp stories. The boy next door had a massive chewing gum collection on his windowsill containing every color imaginable. He allowed her the privilege to select and chew a piece as long as it was returned to the windowsill. There was the time, as some youngsters do, that she ran away from home. Ending up in a Boston train station she called her father late at night asking for ticket purchase advice. He suggested picking her up and bring her home. She could decide and buy the ticket the next day.
One year near Christmas, knowing there were gifts hidden in the attic, she developed a fresh and sassy attitude. This cockiness persisted even after being warned that Santa may be watching. Much to her surprise she received a bag of coal that year. Gifts did not materialize for at least 6 months.
How she suffered silently with a forced smile on her face whilst riding an elephant wearing only her wool bathing suit, after relentlessly begging to do so, only to discover that elephants have tiny coarse hair on their backs that feel like needles.
Her uncle Sherb, a lobsterman, taught her to row his dory standing up. One day they went way out in the bay and Sherb sidled up alongside a whale that was sleeping on the surface. Uncle Sherb urged her to touch it with the oar, which she did, despite being scared to death.
Patti found religion when in kindergarten she met a girl who told her about what she'd learned in Sunday school. She went right home and told her parents that she wanted to go to church. Neither parent was religious, so her father walked her around to several churches looking for one she could get to by herself without crossing the street. She chose the prettiest one, the Episcopal church. She started attending the next Sunday and had perfect attendance at the end of High School. She remained an active member of the church throughout her life, singing in the choir and teaching Sunday School, and was a faithful congregant of All Saints for over 50 years.
Patti was a true and loyal friend, keeping treasured friendships for decades. She met Sookie, a Greek girl, who spoke no English at age five. They remained lifelong friends and always kept in touch no matter what. They were able to enjoy each other’s company on the phone just a few days before she died. Last month she spoke with her friend Synia, whom she's known since age ten. By phone or by letter she never lost touch with anyone.
She was a woman of great courage, dogged determination and an unfailing optimism that saw her through all of the challenges and heartaches that she experienced in her life. She loved her family dearly and always dreamed of having a large one. She opened her heart and home to some teenagers in need, making them part of the family and giving them a fresh start.
The incident that best highlights her character and grit happened in the aftermath of the divorce from her first husband. She first secured a second mortgage to keep her children in their home and then faced the daunting task of feeding them and paying the bills. First, she wrote to all her creditors and local merchants and asked if she could send a minimal amount each month until her bill was settled and none refused her.
Then, she read the book "Five Acres and Independence” that gave step by step instructions on growing a massive garden that could feed a large family for a year. One night after supper she explained to her children the situation they were in, that there might not be enough to eat on her meager pay, but after explaining the premise of the book, if they all agreed to weed for one hour every day and all hands on deck at harvest time, the family would make it through. Her children, aghast that they might be on the brink of starvation, readily agreed. Hearts sank when they came home from school one day to find that a farmer had plowed to her specifications, as outlined in the book, a garden the size of two football fields!
Good to their word the family followed through on their pledge to weed and harvest. Nine hundred feet of every variety of green beans were planted, nine hundred feet of corn, a dozen hills of potatoes, one hundred and fifty feet of turnip, followed by massive amounts of every vegetable known to exist. At harvest time, she realized her mistake, the seeds were planted all at once and thus the vegetables were ready to pick all at once! There were long days picking, washing, cutting and blanching vegetables for the two large freezers in the barn. An assembly line was made on both sides of the kitchen table to process, with the smallest one, Kristin, in charge of carrying the full bags out to the freezer. If friends of the children stopped by, they were welcomed to join the table to pitch in because no one was leaving the line to play with them.
Next, the book gave instructions on packing potatoes and root vegetables to make them last through the winter. The rest were preserved in jars and stored in the large floor to ceiling jelly cabinets in the cellar. There was a huge surplus and Mr. Roy agreed to sell them in his store. Patti was able to make back all the seed money she'd spent, plus a modest profit. Her two youngest girls made a small vegetable stand out on the side of the road, with the idea of making their fortune.
In November, the church was insistent on putting the family on the list for a thanksgiving basket, but Patti was too proud to accept it. Finally, she struck a deal. She would accept a turkey if she could provide all the fresh vegetables for the other baskets. Her children never went hungry. The bounty lasted more than a year. The next garden was cut down to half the size of the original. With great optimism and conviction, she could always see a way through knowing she would always prevail. Patti was an extraordinary and resilient woman.
Three years later she married Stan Szydlo and welcomed his girls, Susan and Sally, into the family. Patti enjoyed hiking and camping with her family, trips to Five Islands, and especially loved enjoying time spent at their camp at Rattlesnake Island on lake Winnipesaukee She was an avid fly fisherwoman, she skied, and raised Alaskan malamutes. She was part of the Wild Wacky Wilderness Women’s Kayaking Klub and kayaked all over the region. She braided rugs, quilted, enjoyed knitting, and loved to tend her gardens and plants. Patti had a great sense of humor and unbeknownst to townsfolk, once a year, with a friend, would don costumes and plastic masks to conceal their identities and roam around town. They would walk into shops and businesses as an old couple, ninjas with swords, even as Fidel Castro and a hooker. Their identities, or rather hers were never discovered, until now.
Patti leaves behind her husband of 44 years Stanley T Szydlo. Her children Gregory and Maureen Anderson, Synia Anderson, Jacki-Beth and Shane Hanchett, Kristin Anderson, Karl and Paula Anderson, Susan Szydlo and Sally Szydlo Howe. Fourteen grandchildren, ten great grandchildren, her sister Sheila Rowe Verzone and husband Richard, her nieces and nephew. She is predeceased by her siblings Joseph Rowe and Glynis Rowe and nephew Brian Corcoran.
Donations may be made to in memory of Patricia Szydlo and in honor of Kristin Anderson at:
Monadnock Family Services
64 Main Street Keene NH 03343
Attn: Mary (603)357-4400
www.mfs.org Click on Donate
85 North State Street Concord NH 03301
www.naminh.org Click on Donate
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