They came from all walks of life, bowlers and business people, friends and family, people of all faiths and backgrounds – and what they all had in common was this: to have known Kathleen “Kathy” (Pawlak) Finklestein was to have known an extraordinary human being.
Many, like Joe Surette, who came with his wife, Cathy Walata, to the Welsh Funeral Home to say good-bye, said just so with their words and actions.
“She was truly one of the nicest people I ever met in my life,” said Surette. “We are all so saddened by her passing.”
Kathleen “Kathy” Finklestein died on April 10 after experiencing a sudden and overwhelming advance of cancer that had struck this brave and seemingly indestructible woman four years ago. She was 62 years old.
The daughter of the late Chester P. and Carole M. (Lombardozzi) Pawlak, Kathy grew up in the family home on Broadway. She was an excellent student who attended St. Stanislaus Parochial School on Chestnut Street, Shurtleff Junior High School, and Chelsea High School, Class of 1973.
During her high school years, she started dating another “All-A” student with a similarly warm personality and generousness, Neal Finklestein. They were married in 1979 and shared 39 years of happiness together. As Kathy’s sister, Chrissy Pawlak, told the large assemblage at the Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Revere, “It was at Chelsea High School where she hit the jackpot of all jackpots, she started dating Neal. Everyone should have a Neal in their lives.”
Many knew Kathy from the candlepin bowling scene. She helped her wonderful father, “Chet,” run Chelsea Square Alleys, a place where the Pawlak family made everyone feel welcomed and safe.
Kathy became an outstanding bowler and she and her sister, Chrissy, reached the top tier of the sport when they appeared on the Channel 5 “Candlepin Doubles” professional bowling show. She also won a mixed doubles championship in the old Chelsea Record Bowling Tournament, leading the way with a record-setting, five-string score of 610.
Hall of Famer Richie “Hawk” Halas, one of so many bowlers who paid their respects to Kathy, said of his fellow professional, “As great a bowler as she was, she was an even better person.”
Known for her keen organizational skills, Kathy directed candlepin bowling leagues in Chelsea and Malden, providing bowlers with a fun night of competition and camaraderie each week.
Chelsea business owners became admirers of Kathy Finklestein and her incredible work ethic through her efforts at the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. Programs such as the Pot-O-Gold Dinner and the Brighter Holidays Committee Awards presentations brought so much enjoyment to Chamber members because Kathy put her maximum effort in to every endeavor she undertook.
Allan I. Alpert, past president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, said Kathy, who owned Chelsea Secretarial Services, was a tremendous asset to the organization.
“Kathy was very active as an outstanding member of the Chamber of Commerce as our secretary, and when we didn’t have an executive director, she pretty much filled the role on a voluntary basis, and would not take any compensation from the Chamber that she loved so dearly,” said Alpert. “She is really going to be missed.”
Peter Zaksheski, also a past president of the Chamber, said of Kathy, “You could not have a truer friend and confidante than Kathy. When I was Chamber president, if I were good, Kathy was the reason. She was the backbone. She was such a great person.”
The Rev. Richard A. Uftring presided over the funeral Mass at the church. He knew Kathy personally through her being a faithful parishioner and a Eucharistic Minister and her membership in the Church Crochet Club.
“Kathy lived her faith, she loved her family – this is her family of friends,” said the Rev. Uftring.
Kathy’s cousin, Judy Covino, and sister, Chrissy Pawlak, each delivered beautiful words of remembrance.
“Kathy was all about giving and she gave it all to her involvement in the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce where you would find her on the planning committees for the Pot-O-Gold, the Christmas Holiday Children’s Holiday Party, and of course my favorite, the annual trip to Foxwoods or Mohegan,” said Covino.
“She was a great behind-the-scenes person who never took the credit. The success of so many fundraisers were the results of her tireless efforts.”
Covino noted how Kathy and Neal loved going to the Boston Garden to cheer on the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. “She also attended many Red Sox games, including Big Papi’s last game.”
Covino told how Kathy would assist others as the family caregiver.
“If you look up caregiver in the dictionary, Kathy’s picture would be right beside it. She was always there for everybody.”
Chrissy Pawlak said as time went on, “Kathy became my first and forever best friend. Following her through life was easy, even though those were really big shoes to follow. My sister was the smartest person I will ever know academically and in life.”
Chrissy recalled how much Kathy and Neal enjoyed being with their family and friends at gatherings and on trips. “I know Kathy loved every minute of it. She took over the holiday traditions, keeping everybody together at her house. The summertime was her favorite where the backyard and the pool were open and the barbecue was going.”
Chrissy perfectly articulated what everyone, including their good friend, Jimmy Manzo, will know forever, “Kathy really was a beautiful person and a blessing to the world. She was the first one to step up to help anyone. She loved doing a lot of things for a lot of people. She will always be my hero. Give mom and dad hugs and kisses. I will forever be proud to be Kathy’s sister and you, Kathy, truly were the wind beneath our wings.”