UPDATE – WOONSOCKET – The Office of the State Medical Examiners at the Rhode Island Department of Health on Friday identified the second of two decedents recovered at a home in Woonsocket on Sept. 19 as Daniel Grabowski, longtime boyfriend to former Mayor Susan Menard.
Earlier in the week, RIDOH identified the other decedent recovered in the home as Menard.
The cause of death for Menard was determined to be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The cause of death for Grabowski was determined to be type 2 diabetes.
WOONSOCKET – Off Hamlet Avenue, a sign welcomes people to the Mayor Susan D. Menard Middle School Complex. It’s been there since 2017, two years after a rare instance of government leaders in the city finding rare unanimous agreement, voting that it should be installed.
Menard had her share of political friends and enemies during her career of service in Woonsocket politics, but few disagreed that her impact on the city, as its first woman elected mayor and longest-serving top executive, was great.
Since leaving office in 2009, the same year she’d lost her daughter to tragedy, she’d kept a mostly low profile at her home at 2 Marian Lane, one reason, perhaps, that no one discovered until Monday that the former mayor and another person had died at some point in her home.
The Office of the State Medical Examiner on Wednesday identified one of two “severely decomposed” bodies found in Menard’s Woonsocket home as Menard. The identity of a second person had not been finalized, but she lived with longtime boyfriend Dan Grabowski. The cause of death for both individuals was still pending as of press time, but both had experienced health issues and police were not treating the deaths as suspicious.
The city is flying flags at half-staff in honor of the former mayor. She was being remembered by colleagues and family this week as a tough politician with a soft personal side, who was dedicated to her family.
Menard’s brother, Robert Miller, died last Saturday, Sept. 17, according to an obituary this week. She was listed in that obituary as still living.
Menard, in her last years and into her 70s, would occasionally call in to local radio shows to express her support for a candidate, sounding as she did wistful about her past in public service.
At the time of the sign dedication in 2017, she told local reporters that she had loved every minute in politics, and that she missed that life.
Former Councilor Garrett Mancieri offered the resolution in 2015 to rename the two middle schools in Menard’s honor, saying the schools were her greatest contribution to the city.
Former Planning Director Joel Mathews, who had served as chairperson of the school building committee at the time, said the schools were long overdue when Menard advocated for an $80 million bond to build them in 2010, part of a long and very difficult process to get the schools approved and built.
Menard’s time in office is generally remembered as a time of financial stability, with the mayor rarely calling for tax increases. Some would later question that strategy when the city entered perilous financial times. She was known to acknowledge on occasion that she might have done things differently had she known the future.
Lt. Matthew Richardson, of the Woonsocket Police Department, first confirmed to The Breeze on Monday that the bodies of an elderly woman and elderly man were found “in an advanced state of decomposition” within Menard’s home at 2 Marian Lane. Police found the two bodies in separate rooms.
The home, according to Woonsocket’s property tax database, was owned solely by Menard. A neighbor, after calling the home several times, apparently approached and discovered an odor before calling police.
Richardson said Monday that there were no signs of foul play, though an investigation was ongoing. Police would later say that both decedents had a history of medical issues.
Menard, also a former School Committee and City Council member, became mayor in 1995 and served 14 years as top city executive before she left office in 2009.
Her only daughter Carrie, with whom she had a close relationship, was found dead in her home near Boston in 2009 due to an accidental interaction of prescribed medicines, leaving Menard devastated.
Carrie Pilavin, who died at 31, had met her husband, James, at a fundraiser during Menard’s first campaign for mayor.
Menard has spent much of her later years being a grandmother to Carrie’s children after deciding against an eighth term in office to be with them. Everything political came to a halt after her daughter’s death, she had said.