SOUTHBRIDGE: Winnifred G. Rybczyk, 85, of Southbridge, Massachusetts, died peacefully Sunday morning at Radius Health Center following a series of debilitating strokes.
Winnie, as she was affectionately known to many, was born in Columbia, Maine, on May 21, 1924, the fifth of seven children of Roscoe and Vera Grant. She attended a consolidated elementary-secondary school in Columbia Falls, Maine, and was the valedictorian of her high school class in 1942. After graduation from high school, she left the state of Maine for Connecticut to find work in one of the many factories producing war materiel during the industrial expansion of World War II. It was in Bristol, Connecticut, where she met and married her husband of 46 years, Theodore F. Rybczyk, a licensed plumber, who was then working in the employ of his father, Stanley Rybczyk.
Together, Winnie and Ted began a family life that would lead them from Bristol to New Britain, Connecticut - and points in between - as Ted sought to develop his independent plumbing business. By 1945, Winnie and Ted had their first child, David, who would later become a highly regarded basketball player at Central Connecticut State College, and then a well-known teacher and coach in the central Connecticut area. David\'s untimely death in 1999 was Winnie\'s darkest hour, but her spirits were buoyed by the outpouring of support from his friends, former students, and associates. To this day, the baseball field at Plainville High School is named in his honor, and a scholarship exists in his name at Central Connecticut State University.
Winnie was an avid reader, poet, and crossword aficionado. She was a whiz with creating limericks and word games, and had enrolled at Central Connecticut State as a senior student to polish her literature and language skills. She encouraged many around her â€“ including her children and grandchildrenâ€“ to challenge her in Scrabble, a game in which she was virtually unbeatable. Her favorite trick word was \"ai,\" meaning a South American sloth, which she would often place on the Scrabble board to trap the unenlightened.
Over the years, Winnie held a number of jobs while she continued to raise her family. She worked for Scovill Manufacturing in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she helped to make zippers; she worked in a Kresge department store selling candy; and she occasionally helped Ted manage his plumbing store in Bristol. But Winnie\'s most satisfying career achievement came later in life â€“ just after her first two children had left the nest. Through the encouragement of her younger brother, Ronald, who knew of Winnie\'s intellectual gifts, she applied for a challenging technical position in the actuarial department of the Aetna Insurance Company in Hartford, Connecticut. It was a perfect match for Winnie, whose verbal skills and quantitative acumen were well suited for this professional position.
Winnie worked in the actuarial department at Aetna for many years, but retired in 1982 after suffering her first of many strokes that left her with an impaired short-term memory. Following her retirement from Aetna, she moved to Southbridge to live with her third son, Kenneth W. Rybczyk, his wife, Teresa, and their daughter, Britany.
Winnie\'s other children included a son, Thomas and his wife Debie Rybczyk, now residing in Tallahassee, Florida; daughters Eleanor (Rybczyk) and her husband Ray Kosinski of Southbridge, and \"Ryb\" Karen (Rybczyk) and her husband Chuck Katz of Renton, Washington. She also leaves behind eleven grandchildren including Lisa, Lauren, Renee, Rae-lynn, Marc, Erin, Andrew, Erika, Michael, Cheryl, and Britany. In addition, Winnie\'s eleven great-grandchildren include Margaret, Kathryn, David, Clarissa, Maria, Ella, Ethan, Thomas, Rachel, Reanna, and Trey. She was predeceased by her husband, Ted, who died in 1991 and son, David, who died in 1999. She also leaves her sisterws Roberta Holland of Ft Kent, Maine, Kay Watts of Roque Bluffs, Maine, and her brother Ronald Grant of Portland, Maine. She was predeceased by her sister Shirley Pineo and brothers Gerald Grant, Morton Grant.
Calling hours are at the Belanger-Bullard Funeral Home, 51 Marcy Street in Southbridge on Friday, February 5, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. A service will be held at the funeral home on Saturday, February 6, at 10:00 AM.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in her memory to the David T. Rybczyk scholarship fund (#2821) at Central Connecticut State University, which awards support for a Plainville High School graduate who has been accepted at CCSU as a first-year, full-time student. Donations can me made on-line at https://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=5436. As an alternative, donations can be made in Winnie\'s memory to the Radius Healthcare Activity Fund, 84 Chapin Street, Southbridge, MA 01550.
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