April 2, 1932 — April 6, 2019
As a child, Patricia Bartkowski read the book "Our World of Color and Sound" dozens of times before she realized something unusual about it.
It had her mother's name on the cover.
That was just the first of Renee Bartkowski's seven children's books to be published by Rand McNally and Little Golden Books in the 1970s. Later, Mrs. Bartkowski wrote six books with religious themes that were published.
Rand McNally selected Mrs. Bartkowski's books for its "Start Right" series of inexpensive and "educationally sound" books.
In a message to parents and teachers at the start of her 1972 book, "Who Wants a Pop Can Park?" which taught children not to litter, the publisher wrote, "Here is a rib-tickling, catchy poem matched with some of the most outlandish illustrations you’ve ever seen."
"She probably started writing she was a little girl herself," said her daughter, now Patricia Grundtisch.
Mrs. Bartkowski, a resident of the Town of Tonawanda for most of her life, died April 6, 2019, four days after celebrating her 87th birthday with her family.
She was born Renee Powalski, the second child and older daughter of Thaddeus and Jennie (Gladysz) Powalski of Buffalo and sister of Robert and Janice Powalski. Her father ran his own real estate and insurance office.
Mrs. Bartkowski graduated from Riverside High School, where she met her husband-to-be, fellow student Valentine A. "Val" Bartkowski. At D'Youville College, she earned a bachelor's degree in sociology/social work in 1953. Her senior profile described her as "soft of speech but well worth listening to."
On June 27, 1953, weeks after her graduation, the Bartkowskis married in Assumption Church, Buffalo. He was in the Army, and the couple left for Fort Dix, N.J., where he was stationed. Their first son, Thomas, was born while he was stationed in Fort Sill, Okla. They moved back to Western New York in 1955, and in 1956 they moved into a home they had built in the Town of Tonawanda, where they remained for the rest of their lives.
Mrs. Bartkowski worked in her father's business on and off through the years, but her life was dedicated to raising her children and writing, her daughters said.
"Our World of Color and Sound," her first book, was published in 1967 by Rand McNally. Between 1972 and 1976, Rand McNally also published "Who Wants a Pop Can Park?" "Homes in the City," about the lives of children in urban neighborhoods; "Little Max the Cement Mixer," about a small cement mixer that accomplishes great things; "Dolls From Many Lands," and "Road Builders," about the heavy equipment used to make roads.
In 1976, Little Golden Books published "My Home," about the places birds, gophers, horses, tigers and whales live.
Liguori Publications printed Mrs. Bartkowski's first religious book, "Prayers for Married Couples," in 1989. Her others were "Prayers for Parents," "Family Prayers for Daily Grace" and "Our Family Prayer Book." Her final book, "Regaining Joy: A Guide to Overcoming Stress and Sadness," was published in 2007.
The most popular of her religious books was "With This Ring: A Practical Guide for Newlyweds," which is in its second printing.
At the time her health began to decline, Mrs. Bartkowski was working on a book to assist those whose faith had been tested, tentatively titled "Bring Me Back Into Your Arms, Lord."
Through the years, she wrote many articles that were published in both children's magazines, including "Highlights," and in religious magazines, her daughter Patricia said.
Mrs. Bartkowski was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1990 and went through eight rounds of chemotherapy. Despite her own health challenges, she took care of her elderly parents, an uncle, and later her husband, who had colon cancer and other ailments.
"She was a caregiver her whole life," said her daughter Kathryn Ryan. "She never complained."
Her husband died on Dec. 6, 2014, after 61 years of marriage.
Patricia Grundtisch called her mother "caring, nurturing and very religious."
"Our childhood was wonderful because of her," said Kathryn Ryan. "We'd go on camping trips, which was just more work for her, with the four kids."
While she was happy to go out with her more social husband, "she liked to sit at home and read and write and take care of everybody," said Kathryn Ryan.
Mrs. Bartkowski was a longtime parishioner of St. Amelia's Church in Tonawanda.
Besides her daughters, Mrs. Bartkowski is survived by two sons, Thomas and James Bartkowski; a sister, Janice Powalski; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
A private memorial service will be held at a later date.