Grandmother, 78, is killed in single-car wreck

She was on her way to pick up a granddaughter when she lost control of her car and hit a pole.

Published August 12, 2006

BROOKSVILLE - Violet R. Kowalcky, 78, died on the way to her granddaughter's school Friday morning when her car flew off Cobb Road and smashed into a power pole.

Her granddaughter Megan Paradis, 13, wasn't feeling well and had asked to be picked up from Dolores S. Parrott Middle School near the scene of the crash.

"My sister was convinced that it's all her fault, even though it's not," said granddaughter Sara Paradis, 17. "She was like our second mom. She wasn't one of those women who sat at the house and watched TV all day."

The wreck happened shortly after 8 a.m., just north of Yontz Road.

"She was swerving from side to side," said Sgt. Matt Lillibridge of the Hernando Sheriff's Office. "She hit an embankment and went airborne."

The investigation into the crash is still open, but Lillibridge said Kowalcky may have had a medical problem that caused her to lose control.

Her silver Pontiac Bonneville was heading north on Cobb Road when it crossed traffic and veered off the grassy shoulder. It hit an embankment and flew through the air, striking a power pole.

The car came to a rest in a ditch. Its hood was bent into a horseshoe-shaped curve; its windshield was shattered.

Kowalcky was taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Sara Paradis said Kowalcky was born in Maine but raised in Worcester, Mass. She had three children: Michael, 57, Steven, 53, and Teresa, 43. Kowalcky and her first husband moved to Florida in the late 1960s.

"She was the most wonderful woman I have ever known in my life," Sara said. "We all expected her to live longer than we would live. She could do anything. She acted younger than anyone I know."

A retired waitress and veteran of the service industry, Kowalcky lived alone in Brooksville. Her second husband died in March.

In the spring of 2005, Kowalcky broke her hip while taking out the trash.

She published a letter in the St. Petersburg Times thanking a stranger who carried her to the front porch before paramedics arrived.

"I am sorry to say that during my crisis, I failed to even get the man's name," she wrote. "But the kindness of this man to stop and help me in my time of distress will never be forgotten."

Friday's was the second fatal crash in 15 hours in Hernando.

About 5 p.m. on Thursday, a 48-year-old man was killed in a head-on wreck at State Road 50 and Richloam Clay Sink Road, east of Ridge Manor.

The Florida Highway Patrol did not release the man's name because his relatives had not been notified.

The female passenger with him has not been identified either. She and the driver of the other car, Michael A. Cates, 47, of Tavares, were at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

The unnamed man crossed into oncoming traffic and hit Cates' car, according to authorities.

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 352 754-6114.