Laura T. Nowak, 92, of North Bennington, died on Friday, January 5, of complications from a recent fall. She passed away peacefully at Brookdale Fillmore Pond, her three children, Laura Keanon, Alison Nowak, and Robert Nowak, as well as her son-in-law, Robert Cane, by her bedside. They, plus her son-in-law, Eugene Keanon, had celebrated Christmas with her just ten days before. Coming from as far away as California and England to see her during her last months were her granddaughter, Dr Jennifer Boldrick, and husband, Dr. Ash Alizadeh with their two children, Kian and Leila; and her granddaughter, Sinead Nowak.
Laura was born on February 25, 1925, in Fort Valley, Georgia, the second child and daughter of Robert James Taylor and Annie Maude Anderson Taylor. She grew up in Fort Valley and Athens, graduating president of her class from Athens High School in 1942 and, as an accomplished and talented pianist, from Converse College, Spartanburg, NC, in 1945, with a BA in music.
That same year, Laura married Lionel Nowak from Cleveland, OH, professor of piano at Converse. Together with their first child, Laura, born 1946 in Athens, they moved to Syracuse, NY, where Lionel taught at the university and their second child, Alison, was born in 1948.
Soon after, Lionel joined the Bennington College Music Division, and the family moved to and settled permanently in Bennington. Laura briefly taught piano in her new community, but turned to raising their children (their third, Robert, was born in Bennington in 1949) at home on the college campus and in North Bennington, where the family bought a house in 1960.
With her children grown, Laura studied stenography, and from 1963–1990 worked full-time at Bennington College as faculty secretary (primarily for the Social Science Division). She also returned to music, studying voice with Frank Baker. A longtime member of the Second Congregational Church in Bennington, she sang in the choir for over 25 years, braving the coldest winter nights, even in her late eighties, to drive to Thursday evening rehearsals.
She also bravely joined Lionel in his private plane on trips back to Georgia. Always family and friends oriented, she carefully collected and filed away photo albums, genealogy, news clippings and personal tales, and kept meticulous archival scrapbooks of the concerts Lionel performed locally and worldwide. She thoroughly enjoyed concerts, movies, theater and museums, and in her last years considered a day drive to Brattleboro or Albany "a real vacation". Wherever she went or whomever she met, in North Bennington, Bennington College and beyond, she was much loved for her kindness and hospitality, youthful energy and enthusiasm, self-reliance, wit and wisdom, and for her engaging stories, made more emphatic with her characteristic exclamations and wonderful laughter.
Laura and Lionel celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in May, 1995, and Lionel died the following December, age 84. He had taught at Bennington College for 45 years.
In addition to her three children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Laura is survived by her sister, Dr. Lois Ellison of Augusta, GA and Lionel's daughter, Karen Bachman, of College Station, TX, as well as by Lionel's additional 7 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, whom Laura considered her own. She will be forever loved and missed by all of them and by her many friends.
In lieu of flowers, donations to honor Laura may be sent to John G. McCullough Free Library, Bennington Rescue Squad, Sage City Symphony and Second Congregational Church, all of which she supported.
Visitation hours will be held at Mahar & Son Funeral Home, 628 Main St., Bennington, 4–7 PM, Tuesday, January 9. A memorial service/ celebration of life is planned for Summer 2018.