DENHAM SPRINGS -- Adam Koczrowski was always the life of the party.
If someone wasn’t smiling, he had to make them laugh.
If someone needed to talk, he had to listen.
If someone was in need, he had to help.
That’s how family and friends still remember Koczrowski, a former U.S. Marines staff sergeant who was killed in a car crash in March 2015.
No matter the situation, Koczrowski was always smiling: He’d smiled at home with his wife and two kids; he’d smile when he had to tell them “goodbye” before leaving for any of his four tours of duty overseas; he’d smile in the photographs he’d send them from the other side of the world.
His wife of nine years, Brittany Kenney, still remembers that smile.
“He was the happiest person,” Kenney said. “He always wanted to make sure that people felt taken care of and appreciated. He just, 100 percent, wanted to give everything to everybody else.”
More than four years have passed since Koczrowski’s untimely death, but family members and friends still remember him as a “jokester,” a “caring man,” “someone who never knew a stranger,” and “a person who lifted everyone else’s spirits.”
Last weekend, they honored those memories.
Friends and family members of Koczrowski, as well as volunteers from the Denham Springs High baseball team, spent Saturday afternoon collecting, packaging, and boxing up items to be sent to deployed troops overseas.
The care package drive, spearheaded by Kenney and Anchor South Real Estate, took place over the month of August, with drop-off points at six locations in Denham Springs, Baton Rouge, and Ascension Parish. People donated enough supplies to fill 217 boxes that would be shipped off Monday.
On Saturday, volunteers worked in an assembly line inside the DSHS gym, finishing the job in little more than an hour. Kenney’s coworkers at Anchor South Real Estate shaped the boxes, the baseball team filled them up with supplies, and Koczrowski’s family and friends sealed them shut. Inside the boxes were a plethora of goodies and “thank you” cards written by local elementary students.
When the job was done, and the last of the boxes loaded onto trucks, Kenney thanked the volunteers and community for their “tremendous” support.
“I couldn’t have made it more perfect than what it was,” she said. “Everything flowed perfectly, and everybody was more than generous. I had people today handing me cash and asking to put it toward postage.
“It’s amazing to see such a small community — a community that I grew up in — give back in such a big way.”
This wasn’t the first time Kenney had organized a care package drive in Koczrowski’s honor: The first one was back in 2011, when Koczrowski was stationed in Afghanistan.
Melanie Koczrowski, Adam’s mother, said the family would regularly send Adam care packages whenever he was deployed. The boxes always contained a variety of items, including games, pictures, snacks, and “daddy dolls” of Adam that his children, Mackenzie and Tucker, always held tight.
Whenever Adam received a package, his fellow troops would always gather around him to see what was inside, Melanie said. And as was his nature, Adam shared everything he had.
“Adam knew we’d send good stuff, and [his fellow troops] knew, too,” Melanie said with a laugh. “So when he opened up his box, all the guys would be around asking what they got, and he shared everything. He knew that some of them didn’t have families, and he never wanted anyone to feel left out.”
Eventually, Adam asked his family for a different gift.
“He actually asked me to stop sending stuff to him and to send them to his guys instead,” Kenney recalled. “I wasn’t going to stop sending him packages, so we decided to send some to his guys, too. That’s how it started.”
During the first care package drive, the family hoped it could send 10 boxes to Adam’s fellow troops. But the supplies kept pouring in, Adam’s mother-in-law Suzan Gould recalled, one after another.
“We put something on Facebook, and it just exploded,” Gould said. “We just wanted to do 10 at first, but then we had enough supplies for 25, and then 50, and then 100, and then almost 200. We actually ran out of boxes, not supplies.”
All told, the group collected enough supplies to fill up 198 boxes that were sent to troops overseas. The remaining supplies were then delivered to a group in Zachary that was organizing its own care package drive.
Seeing his fellow troops open their care packages made Adam as happy as opening his own, his mother said.
“Adam was so happy when the guys opened their boxes,” she said.
But tragedy would strike the family four years after the care package drive, when Adam was serving as a combat instructor while stationed in Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
On March 11, 2015, a 29-year-old Adam lost control of his car, hit a tree, and died shortly afterward, leaving behind his wife, two children ages 7 and 5, his parents, three siblings, and many other family members and friends.
It took some time for Brittany to heal from the shock of losing her husband so suddenly, but her family, friends, coworkers, and the military community rallied to her side.
Though she still thinks about Adam often — there are pictures of him hanging in her house, and everyone describes her son Tucker, now 10, as “Adam’s clone” — she said she can now stand “on my own two feet.”
Brittany remarried in April 2017, tying the knot with Jaymis Kenney, whom she described as “an answer to my prayers.” Brittany said Jaymis regularly takes Mackenzie and Tucker to the cemetery “to pay their respects to Adam,” and he often wears a memorial bracelet in Adam’s memory, “even though he never even knew him.”
“It takes a hell of a man to step up and do that,” Brittany said.
The outpouring of support, especially from the military community, is why Brittany decided to organize another care package drive for deployed troops this summer. She hoped to show everyone how grateful she was for their help during the worst time of her life.
“When you’re grieving, it’s hard in the moment to make sure people know you’re appreciative,” she said. “You don’t even know your head from your toes at that point in life. After Adam’s passing, things were really difficult for awhile.
“The military community really helped myself and my kids through a really difficult time, so we wanted to give back in his honor.”