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Northampton hairdresser’s death prompts gifts to Toy Fund

Elaine Moczulewski, left, and Diane Brozoski were co-workers at Hair Etc. in Northampton. Employees and clients at the salon have made donations to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in honor of Brozoski, who died in June.

Elaine Moczulewski, left, and Diane Brozoski were co-workers at Hair Etc. in Northampton. Employees and clients at the salon have made donations to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in honor of Brozoski, who died in June. Purchase photo reprints »

But then she stops and remembers that Brozoski, who worked with Moczulewski at Hair Etc. for seven years, is gone. She died on June 23 at age 62.

“This was her favorite time of the year,” Moczulewski said. “Even when she was sick with cancer, she would bring in homemade desserts like she was Mrs. Claus, and there were always gifts sitting on her station.”

At least four of Brozoski’s customers have made donations to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in her memory. The fund, which is named for a former Gazette business manager who established it to help needy families during the Great Depression, distributes certificates that can be redeemed at participating stores for gifts for children aged 1 to 14.

The counter at Hair Etc. has a donation box for the Toy Fund reading, “In honor of Diane Brozoski, Mrs. Claus herself.”

“Everyone was her best friend,” Moczulewski said of Brozoski. “She was a gentle soul who made you feel really special. She was a great listener, and a lot of times people would talk about problems with their kids, and she would help them through it.”

Diane (Zygmont) Brozoski was a Northampton native. Fifteen years ago, the Gazette ran a story about her own donation to the Toy Fund. Her mother, Patricia Senser Zygmont, had died the previous April, but later won two cash raffle drawings held at the Northampton Elks Club. Brozoski donated the winnings to the Toy Fund in her mother’s name.

“I always said she had such good luck because she gave so much,” Brozoski said at the time.

Barbara Lapinski, one of the customers who donated to the Toy Fund this year to honor her memory, said Brozoski had done her hair for 25 years.

“She would go above and beyond to help someone,” Lapinski said. “If it was a last-minute thing, she’d take you, and if there was a death in the family and you didn’t have an appointment, she would stay after hours.”

Brozoski knew that her conversations with customers were confidential. “She was like a Dear Abby of hairdressers,” Lapinski said.

Jean Curran knew Brozoski for 40 years and had a standing appointment with her every Friday.

“She would go to a sick customer’s home or to a nursing home to make that person look or feel better,” Curran said. “She had a sign on her mirror that read, ‘I’m a beautician not a magician,’ but she certainly brought magic into many people’s lives. I miss her terribly.”

Other customers agreed that Brozoski was more than a hairdresser. Grace Jalbert called her “the daughter I never had” in an interview. Barbara Laughlin said, “I feel blessed to have known her.”

Her co-workers at Hair Etc. also recalled Brozoski’s playful side. Moczulewski said that whenever she went on vacation, for instance, she’d return to find her mirror dotted with cotton balls that Brozoski had taped to it.

“She was a hoot,” Moczulewski said.

Rebecca Brooks, another hairdresser at Hair Etc., said Brozoski inspired her to become a Hospice volunteer.

“When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Diane was one of the people that would write me notes and letters talking about my mom and what a special gift she was,” she said.

Robin LaFleur, who also works at Hair Etc., said Brozoski was probably the kindest person she’s ever met. “Things haven’t been the same since she’s been gone,” she said.

The Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund has been helping needy families during the holiday season since 1933. Today, it is open to families living in any Hampshire County community except Ware, and in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Berkshire Children and Families in Hadley verifies applicants’ income eligibility. Most families who receive assistance are referred by social service agencies. The Gazette covers the costs of administering the fund.

Eligible families receive $40 vouchers for each child age 1 to 14. Participating stores this year include A2Z Science and Learning Store, Northampton; Deals & Steals, Northampton; Faces, Northampton; F.J. Rogers, Florence; JCPenney, Hadley; Mountain Goat, Northampton; The Toy Box, Amherst; Wilson’s Department Store, Greenfield; and Target, Hadley.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be made online at toyfund.gazettenet.com, or dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, 115 Conz St., Northampton, MA 01060, or Gazette offices at 67 Main St., Easthampton, or 9 East Pleasant St., Amherst. Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Legacy Comments1

Diane is greatly missed. She wasn't only my hairdresser but a friend. She did my mothers hair, then started doing mine when I was in high school in the early 80's. She also did my grandmothers hair and did my 3 kids. We were so happy that she was well enough to do my daughters hair for her wedding 2 years ago. I moved to Pittsfield 3 1/2 years ago and I would still travel to Northampton to have her do my hair. I miss her and so many other people do. Diane was only a positive person and she will be missed forever.

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