SCHENECTADY — Jennifer Marie Fake was murdered in 2002 in Saratoga Springs.
But the passage of 17 years has not erased the pain, said her mother, Diane Spencer.
In some ways, the ache has intensified as her survivors reach milestones in their own lives.
Jennifer would have been a grandmother two years ago.
“This year really hit me more than the other years,” Spencer said. “She wasn’t able to be here to have that thrill of being a first-time grandma.”
Spencer makes it through day by day, hour by hour.
“It’s tough,” she said. “It’s really tough.”
Martha Lasher-Warner also recounted an upcoming family milestone, a wedding.
“It’s a happy event and we’re missing people,” she said.
Her daughter, Liza Ellen Warner, was murdered by her husband at her home in Princetown in 2004.
Spencer and Lasher-Warner recalled their children during the annual Ceremony of Remembrance of Homicide Victims, held Wednesday at Schenectady’s Central Park as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Organizer Tina Mazzucco said the event hosted by the Vito A. Masi Memorial Center for Nonviolence gives survivors a chance to bond over their shared experiences.
Offering survivors a platform for shared grief isn’t only designed as a form of therapy.
“When victims feel understood and supported, they’re more likely to seek services, which leads to a stronger and more resilient community,” Mazzucco said.
Ongoing support from a coalition of community partners — including prosecutors, law enforcement and elected officials — is critical, she said.
Mazzucco started the event in 1997 after her childhood friend, Vito, was killed.
“Today is his birthday,” she said. “No one ever forgets them.”
She pledged to the families of all victims to say their names.
The list grows longer every year.
Clad in heavy coats and blankets on a chilly and overcast day with temperatures stuck in the low 40s, attendees recited the names of nearly 300 homicide victims from Schenectady County and the region.
They spoke in unison for eight minutes as sirens howled faintly in the background.
“They say it gets easier,” said Harry Olds. “To me, that’s not true. It seems like time goes by so slow.”
His grandson Sha’hiim Nelligan was murdered by a relative in 2013 at the age of 8.
And his son Jonathan Olds was shot and killed in Schenectady in 2017.
“It seems like with those two gone, I miss them more and more every day,” Olds said.
The annual event helps, he said.
While attendees may not see each aside from the brief annual ceremony, the gathering gives attendees a chance to bond with each other.
“We all need it,” Olds said.
Spencer thanked the group for always being there for her.
“They’ve always been beside me no matter what,” she said. “They’re always there for everybody. They’re a fabulous organization, and they’re caring, loving people, and they feel the loss I do because they also lost a child.”
Panels of photos of victims, affixed with black ribbons, flanked the pavilion.
Rabbi Avraham Kelman of Congregation Beth Israel said their spirits were in attendance.
“This is actually a very crowded event,” Kelman said.
Reach Gazette reporter Pete DeMola at 518-395-3113, [email protected] or @pmdemola on Twitter.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County