The Rev. Robert Longobucco called for courage Wednesday as he gave the invocation at the annual Ceremony of Remembrance of Homicide Victims in the Central Park Rose Garden.
“Give us the courage to never allow our loved ones to be defined by the evil that ended their mortal life, but caress our memory with a vision of their smile, the jolt of their laughter, the warmth of their love,” said Longobucco, pastor at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish.
It is those memories that family members gather to remember each year. The ceremony, part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, included music and comments from those affected by such deaths. It also included the annual reading of the names of those killed.
This year, those present read 241 names. Among those added since the last ceremony: former nun Mary Greco; 8-year-old Sha’hiim Nelligan; Rotterdam mother Tammy McCormack and her 22-year-old daughter, Jessica. All were killed in Schenectady County since December.
The event is hosted by the Vito A. Masi Memorial Center for Nonviolence, and has been held each year since 1997. Many of the bushes in the Rose Garden are dedicated to homicide victims.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy was on hand, as were representatives of the Schenectady Police Department and the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office and other local officials.
“This is really the best of humanity, where you can see all the good things,” McCarthy said.
Pat Gioia, head of the local chapter of the support group Parents of Murdered Children, told the gathering of how the organization helped her after her daughter, Mary Regina Gioia, was killed in 1985 in California.
“I found it very, very beneficial for me and for many others to be with someone else who had the same thing, maybe not the same circumstances, but the same grief,” Gioia said.
For the family of Brett Wentworth, their grief is 3 years old this month. Wentworth was killed in April 2010 in Schenectady; his alleged killer was just charged in November.
Wentworth’s mother, Barbara Conary, and sister Margaret Messer, both of Niskayuna, were among those at Wednesday’s ceremony. After the ceremony, they remembered Wentworth as “a wonderful father, son and brother.”
“It’s such a connection,” Conary said of the gathering. “Everyone does things in such a loving way. It just connects all of us.”
For some, that grief was all too new. Tammy and Jessica McCormack were murdered earlier this month in their Rotterdam home. Their alleged killer was arraigned Wednesday morning, less than an hour before the ceremony. Members of the McCormack family attended the arraignment, then came to the Rose Garden.
Tina Mazzucco, one of the ceremony’s organizers and a childhood friend of Masi, who was killed in 1995 in Schenectady, spoke directly to those families who were at their first ceremony, hearing their loved ones names read for the first time. Mazzucco invited them to look to others who have gone through similar grief.
“They’ve been there and will go through it with you. We have support groups and other organizations that are there, whatever you need, when the time is right for you,” Mazzucco said. “We will listen to you, we will cry with you and you will laugh again.”