Sometimes, people become part of the fabric of your life without either of you realizing it.
Barbara Karbowiak was one of those people for me.
If you grew up or lived in Patchogue, you probably passed by her hundreds of times, standing behind her flower cart in front of her home on the corner of North Ocean Avenue and Lakewood Street.
One day, while I was the editor of the local paper there, one of my reporters complained “there are no interesting stories out there.”
“There’s thousands of stories, they just haven’t been told,” I told him. “What about the lady who sells the flowers? What’s her story?”
What a story it was.
Born in the Ukraine, she was taken to a German labor camp and was separated from her family. There she met her husband. After she was released she came to the United States, raised a family and filled her front yard with beautiful flowers of all types, and vegetable gardens in the back.
For years, her flowers found their way to my mother’s house, into the hands of the young woman who would become my wife, and later to the arms of my little girls — who would greet them with squeals of delight.
Her vegetables and pickles fed my family, and her ever-present smile filled my soul with joy and peace.
Barbara passed away this week at the age of 94. I’m glad she was a part of my life, and that I got to know her story.
My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.
Photo: Barbara Karbowiak in front of her Patchogue home behind her flower cart. (courtesy)