'Acts of charity' serve as 'testament' to community, family
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM For Richard Jagodowski the hardest part of losing his 12-year-old daughter Alexandra "Lexi" Jagodowski is learning to live life as a father of three, not four.
Lexi was the eldest of Richard and Gail Jagodowski's four children. On Sept. 16, she lost her battle with to acute lymphoblastic leukemia while being treated at Children's Hospital Boston.
"We're working toward a new normal now as a family of five and not as a family of six," he said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "I'm still getting used to going into a restaurant where there are six chairs and seeing that one empty seat. It still hurts."
What was supposed to be a small church supper to raise funds for Lexi's medical bills on Oct. 11 turned into a prodigious celebration of her life that united members of her congregation, St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church and numerous others from surrounding communities. By the end of the evening, donations and proceeds from the silent auction raised over $11,000 for the Jagodowski family.
"The acts of charity and kindness that we saw were a testament of the community and the family," Mark Mickey, Programming Committee member at the Agawam United Methodist Church (AUMC), said.
The fundraiser was organized by AUMC where Richard had been an organist for 16 years in conjunction with the Jagodowski's congregation.
"We really didn't expect all that much," Richard said. "I've never really been one to worry about nickels and dimes. We'll make it work and certainly with three other children at home this [money] will go a long way."
He added that he is still waiting to receive the remainder of Lexi's medical bills.
"It just amazes me how many people came together for Lexi," Gail said. "I believe everyone was there [at the fundraiser] because she was such a great kid. They all remembered her in such a positive way."
She added that the money accumulated at the fundraiser was "more than we could have wished for."
"I'm not really sure why she touched so many lives," Gail said. "I just think it was because she was just pure goodness . [At the fundraiser] I continued to hear such positive stories about her from moms and kids she went to school with."
Lexi would have been a sixth grader at Agawam Middle School this year.
Gail explained that her daily life is much like her husband's an attempt to live without their eldest daughter, while remaining attentive to the needs of their other children, Richard, 8, Christina, 7 and Joseph, 5.
"It's really hard to be left behind," she said as she cried. "Apparently she accomplished, in her 12 short years, what God needed her to accomplish because He took her home."
Gail explained that she is slowly sorting through Lexi's room, which she shared with Christina.
"It just amazes me the insight that she had and the love for everyone and everything that she had," she said. "I go through her room little by little and I find writings and journals about how she loved life and people . [These are] little treasures that I'm finding."
Richard said he will continue to celebrate Lexi's life and her ability to see the "awesome" nature in all things.
"'Awesome' was a word that she used to describe things," he said, adding that's how he chooses to describe Lexi and how her life's story united so many.