CHARLTON - Although she said she is not a spiritual person, Margaret E. Krukowski overwhelmed a courtroom full of strangers Thursday in Dudley District Court with her act of compassion to Sharon M. Ricci, by asking the Worcester district attorney’s office to drop the motor vehicle homicide charge facing her.
In a plea agreement, Mrs. Ricci was found guilty of the much lesser charge of negligent driver.
“Her (Mrs. Ricci) losing her license for 15 years isn’t going to do anybody good because it’s only going to inconvenience everybody else around her,” Mrs. Krukowski said Friday in her Charlton home. “What good would jail time do? It would be a burden on the state … I think she’s in jail enough by herself, if she has any conscience.”
The former “Peggy” Bird met her first and only boyfriend (and future husband), William C. “Bill” Krukowski, when they were 13 and 15 respectively, in the Grafton Hill section of Worcester. She said the two connected immediately.
“I remember the day I met him,” Mrs. Krukowski said. “It was summertime and he had cut-off dungarees and a straw hat on. And he walked by me and I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ And from then on, it was just him and me. We did everything together. It has been me and Bill forever.”
Mr. Krukowski enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and went off to Vietnam after high school. Before he went off to serve his country, Mr. Krukowski surprised Peggy with a proposal and a diamond ring.
“We were engaged before he went to Vietnam. He asked me to marry him when I was 17,” Mrs. Krukowski said. “And he was in Vietnam and went through basic training for two years. And we got married a week after he came home from Vietnam.”
Despite the tragedies that have plagued her life, Mrs. Krukowski is very comfortable talking about loved ones that she has lost. And she is the first one to acknowledge that she has lost a lot of loved ones over the years.
On Dec. 7, 1995, Francis W. "Frank" Chomo, owner of Margaux's Deli & Catering in Southbridge, died from injuries suffered 16 days earlier when he fell from the porch roof of his home and deli business. Mr. Chomo, 38 at the time of his death, was married to one of Mr. Krukowski’s sisters. The two men were best friends.
Then, on March 10, 1996, the life of Mr. and Mrs. Krukowski's 17-year-old daughter Jennifer M. Krukowski was cut short in a head-on collision on Route 20 in her hometown.
“Jennifer was a tough one,” Mrs. Krukowski recalled. “She could have been the first female president. She was a go-getter."
Charles S. Newsome of Crockett, Texas, was found not guilty of motor vehicle homicide by negligent driving in the fatal crash that killed the Shepherd Hill Regional High School senior who had big plans to pursue a career in sports medicine. His lawyer said his client’s epilepsy caused him to swerve over the Route 20 center line and collide with the car in which Jennifer was a passenger.
“When you lose a child, more often than not that couple separates and gets divorced. And we said from the get-go that we would never let that happen,” Mrs. Krukowski said. “So it’s either you have to live with it or become a drunk or something worse, commit suicide. We weren’t going to do that.”
After their daughter’s death, Mr. and Mrs. Krukowski formed JENS-Citizens for Safer Highways, a citizens’ advocacy group. JENS, which stands for Just End Needless Suffering, was instrumental in the 1998 passage of the JENS bill, which helped bring about funding for a $19 million reconstruction of Route 20 in Charlton.
Then on Nov. 25, 2016, Mrs. Krukowski lost her husband of 46 years when Mrs. Ricci of Southbridge fatally struck him with her car in front of their home. Moments before the fatal accident, Mr. Krukowski was playing with two of his grandsons with a trainset which the boys could sit and ride on.
“The three of them were having an absolute ball. Billy needed a rest. So he went out and got the mail,” Mrs. Krukowski said. "I knew that something was up because I saw two women standing in front of the house but I didn’t see any of the cars ... I was bending down looking out the window and I saw legs in the garden. And then I couldn’t stand up because I knew that it had to have been Bill’s, because either he was there helping or it was him. And I didn’t see him helping.”
Mrs. Krukowski said police had told her that Mrs. Ricci fell asleep at the wheel after working a long day on Black Friday at Macy's at the Auburn Mall when she struck her husband.
“She (Mrs. Ricci) didn’t choose to go out and hit Billy. She fell asleep,” Mrs. Krukowski said. “The man (Mr. Newsome) who hit Jennifer’s car, he chose not to take his (epilepsy) medicine because it makes him tired. He made a conscious choice ... And, if he had taken it, Jennifer would still be alive. So he should have been in jail.”
Despite her losses, Mrs. Krukowski said she has a lot to live for, including her two sons, her two daughters-in-law and her four grandsons. She advises those who suffer great losses never to give in to anger, abhorrence or acts of vengeance.
“If the spirit of your soul goes somewhere,” Mrs. Krukowski said, “the three of them (her husband Bill, her daughter Jennifer and her brother–in-law Frankie) are fishing together.”