Bishop Emeritus Paul G. Bootkoski served as principal celebrant at a funeral Mass for Lottie M. Rak at St. Hedwig Church, Trenton, June 6. Lottie, 96, died May 30 at Saint Peters University Hospital, New Brunswick. She was the mother of Ronald C. Rak, J.D., chief executive officer of Saint Peter’s Healthcare System.
Born May 21, 1920, in Trenton, Lottie was the eighth of nine children of Apolonia (nee Wanowicz) and Josef Debiec. She attended Holy Cross Grammar School and St. Mary Cathedral High School. Her father’s sudden death required she leave high school in her sophomore year to assist her family financially.
As a young woman, she was a member of Holy Cross Parish, where she served in the sodality ministry. At a parish picnic in the late 1940’s, she met Charles Rak, a Navy veteran. They were married Oct. 10, 1953, at St. Hedwig Church. Charles, or “Walt” as he was affectionately known, was the love of Lottie’s life. However, Charles died in 1965 at the age of 45.
As a member of St. Hedwig Parish, she devoted countless hours to volunteer work for the parish and its school.
At Easter and Christmas, she continued her mother’s Polish traditions, making golumpki, pierogi and borscht, baking babka and observing wigilia. A member of the Trenton Polish Arts Club, she was elected its corresponding secretary, assisting with the club’s annual gala that raised college scholarships for high school seniors.
Lottie was a skilled seamstress who made dresses and other garments for her sisters, Sophie and Helen, and her daughters. She was proficient in embroidery and crocheted more than 500 Afghans for family members, neighbors, and friends. She presented personalized Afghans to then-Pope, now St. Pope John Paul II; presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; New York City Mayor Edward Koch, and the late actor Christopher Reeve. Lottie later made blankets for the newborn infants at Saint Peter’s University Hospital.
In 2012, Lottie was installed as a Lady of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Eastern Lieutenancy of the United States. In October 2015, she was promoted to the rank of Lady Commander at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City. She developed decades long friendships with many religious, most especially Bishop Emeritus Bootkoski and Felician Sister Mary Charlotte Wszolek.
She was predeceased by her mother and father; her husband, Charles; her siblings, Walter, Alexander, Sophie, Stanley, Andrew, Helen, Peter and Frances; and many cousins, including her beloved cousin Florence Krawiec.
In addition to her son, Ronald, of Ewing, she is survived by her daughter, Lorraine, of Bloomfield; her daughter and son-in-law Kathleen and John Kolczynski of Kissimmee, Fla.; her granddaughter, Julianna Kolczynski, also of Kissimmee; and her beloved miniature schnauzer, Charlie.
Lottie’s extended family includes her “adopted grandson” Michael Rosa of Ewing; her “adopted son” Leo Cortelezzi of Califon and his wife Peggy, and children Luna and Lucas; her caregivers, Agnes Karnicka and Sheriefa Saleh, as well as Dr. Nayan Kothari, and Joan C. Lynn, FNP, MSN.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Lottie’s memory to The Saint Peter’s Foundation, 254 Easton Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901; or St. Hedwig Roman Catholic Church, 872 Brunswick Ave., Trenton, NJ 08638.