Tragic losses felt in 2012


WESTFIELD – 2012 saw the untimely deaths of several area residents, tragedies both public and private.
Perhaps the most widely felt death was that of Patti Andras who lost a long battle with cancer on Thursday May 31, at the age of 57.
Andras filled many roles during her public life in the city and was remembered for her smile and her enthusiasm.
She began her political career as campaign manager for then City Councilor Richard K. Sullivan during his first, of many, mayoral campaigns and subsequently served as his administrative assistant.
In the mayor’s office, Andras initiated many events, such as the annual children’s Easter egg hunt, which are now traditions in the city.
She left her city hall position to pursue a career in investment banking, but continued her public service as a member of the Police Commission, a post she held for more than a decade before standing for election to the City Council, where she served until her death.
Over the years Andras served on the boards of Amelia Park, the Westfield chapter of The American Red Cross, The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield, The Forum House, the 104th Fighter Wing Community Advisory Board, Noble Hospital, Westfield State University, the Hampden County Estate Planning Council and the National Trust School Advisory Committee.
She was a driving force to continue the city’s Fourth of July celebration and make it spectacular. The 2012 Independence Day celebration was dedicated to her memory.
Just as prominent was veteran Westfield police officer Jose Torres who died July 26 when he was struck by a ten-wheel dump truck while working at a construction project on Pontoosic Road.
Torres’ death was the first time a city officer was killed while on duty and elicited an outpouring of emotion in the city.
Torres, who was a police officer for 27 years, had been well respected and widely liked in the city.
He was the recipient of two departmental commendations and was decorated for his role in preventing a suicide.
Officer Kerry Paton served as one of Torres’ pallbearers and said “He knew everybody on the street and that really helped a lot when you went on a call.”
“They never gave him a hard time” he said because Torres “gave everybody a fair shake, always treated everybody as an equal.” Paton said that Torres “went out of his way to help people out of the situation they were in and tried to find ways to help them instead of arresting them.”
His wake, funeral cortege, funeral ceremony and internment drew large crowds and prominent mourners including a host of police officers from several states and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
More recently, Barbara Swords, for 22 years a city councilor, died unexpectedly of natural causes Dec. 21 at the age of 86.
Her public life began when she assisted her husband, City Councilor ( 1974-1979) Richard Swords and continued after she before she became a councilor herself  in 1986.
Her private life revolved around her family and she is remembered for the grace with which she persevered after losing, one after another, three of her six children.
Swords was succeeded on the council by current councilor Mary O’Connell who called Swords a great mentor and recalled her “positive outlook on life.”
Former Mayor Richard K. Sullivan Jr. called her “the Green Councilor” and said “she was an advocate for all the environmental issues.”
Current Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said Swords “will go down in Westfield history as a leading woman in politics.”
In another notable area death, a well known Southwick tree worker, Tyler Granfield, 28, was killed in July.
While working on a tree job in East Longmeadow, a large branch fell in an unexpected direction, killing him when he was pinned underneath the fallen limb.
There was one murder in the area during 2012, discovered June 24 when the body of Jessica Dana, 30, was found near her Rocky Brook home in Huntington.
Jeb Daly Sr., 36, the father of two of Dana’s children and with whom she lived, was promptly arrested on charges of improper disposal of a body and misleading police, and held in lieu of $100,000 cash bail.  He was subsequently charged with murder and held without right to bail pending his trial, which is expected to begin in August.
During the year, six area residents died as a result of vehicular accidents, beginning Feb. 17 when an 18-year-old Middlefield resident died in an early morning crash on Bates Road.
Emily J. Savery, a Gateway Regional High School senior, had been a passenger in a vehicle operated by Jay Patrick Franklin, 23, of 1 Lackey St., Upton, which left the roadway near the intersection with Morningside Drive and struck a tree stump before rolling over and burning.
Savery was removed from the burning vehicle by the other occupants of the car but, after she was transported to Noble Hospital, she was pronounced dead.
Franklin was alleged to have been intoxicated and was charged with operating under the influence of liquor resulting in serious injury, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, motor vehicular homicide while operating recklessly under the influence of liquor and speeding.
In June, Franklin was indicted in Hampden Superior Court and is due to appear in court for a pre-trial hearing in January.
Although there were, of course, many other crashes in the area over the next six months none resulted in fatalities until the fall when five motorists died due to vehicular crashes in a period of about six weeks.
Shortly before midnight on the evening of Sept. 27, a Tolland woman, Nicole Dupuis, 20, was killed in Southwick when her car left the roadway while traveling westbound on Granville Road and struck two trees. Responding firefighters and paramedics found her to be deceased.
About two weeks later, on Oct. 13, city police responded to a single car crash on Shaker Road which claimed the life of Matthew A. Osienski, 29, of Fort Collins, Colo.
Born in Holyoke, Osienski spent most of his life in Westfield graduating from Westfield High School in 2001 and the University of Massachusetts in 2008. He had been studying at the University of Colorado before his death.
The next day, on Oct. 14, a Holyoke man, Carlos Colon, 22, died after he crashed his off road motorcycle into a similar machine operated by Luis Gonzalez, also 22, of Holyoke, in a wooded area near East Mountain Road.
Gonzalez was transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield where he succumbed to his injuries about two weeks later.
The final traffic death of the year occurred about a week later, on Nov. 6, when a bicyclist was struck by a pickup truck on Western Avenue.
John Kurty, 86, of Westwood Drive, was transported to the trauma center at Baystate Medical Center but died overnight.
Kurty had been a standout athlete during his high school years at Ludlow High School and played in college at Penn State University.
He returned to Ludlow High School for an outstanding career as a coach and educator before he became the soccer coach at Westfield State College for 11 years. His teams compiled an enviable 153-38-12 record.
In addition to the traffic fatalities, 2012 saw two tragic deaths at home, one from carbon monoxide poisoning and one from a fire.
In neither case were there functional smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in the homes.
In January, city firefighters responded to an Elizabeth Avenue address in mid afternoon after a caller reported that her employers, Adam and Crete Kochanek, of 118 Elizabeth Ave., were unresponsive when she arrived at their home.
The firefighters found Crete M. Kochanek, 69, had expired but her husband, Adam S. Kochanek, 68, although unconscious and unresponsive, survived.
In November, an elderly city resident, Raymond Megaro, 92, died after a fire in his Noble Avenue home.
Firefighters responding to the early morning blaze found the house fully involved but were able to remove Megaro who was transported to Noble Hospital where he expired.
The fire was found to have been caused by a faulty furnace but firefighters report that discovery of the fire was delayed because there were no working smoke detectors in the house so the fire was well established before an alarm was raised.


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