Victims Memorials

Remember Me
Remember me when flowers bloom
Early in the spring
Remember me on sunny days
In the fun that summer brings
Remember me in the fall
As you walk through the leaves of gold
And in the wintertime--remember me
In the stories that are told
But most of all remember
Each day—right from the start
I will be forever near
For I live within your heart














On June 16, 2003, Sam and Jan Messina’s lives changed forever.

That was the day their oldest child and their only son – Matthew Messina was killed by a hit and run drunk driver in Chico, California.  He was 25 years old. 

“As parents we suffered the worst possible nightmare except it was true.  We are not the same people we were on June 16, 2003, and will never go back to being those people for the rest of our lives.  Our future was robbed of our only son, and all the potential his life offered.  No amount of grieving or time will heal the wound that a drunk driver inflicted on us and our family”.

Matt was born and raised in Bethlehem, New York, outside of Albany.  He had moved to California six months before his death to complete his college education at Chico State College. 

He could not afford a car. So, like many college age young adults in town, he used his bicycle for transportation.

Matt was riding in a 25-mph speed zone when a drunk driver hit him and left him to die on the pavement.  The car knocked Matt 80 feet in the air.  The driver, a 31 year old woman with three children, stopped the car to see what she had done, panicked and left the scene. 

She hid out for a year before she was finally arrested.  She admitted drinking vodka and beer that day, and returning home from a 10:30 p.m. “beer run” when she hit and killed Matthew.  The driver served less than two years in prison for Matt’s death and has since been released from prison.

“We will never know what Matt would have contributed to society, and will always feel the loss of our son,” the Messina’s said.  “Family occasions, holidays and other celebrations, instead of being totally joyous will be bittersweet because we will always miss Matt’s presence”.

Matt had potential for greatness. Before his death, he attended military school at Norwich University in Vermont for three years.  He joined the U.S. Marines as a Reservist, and held a variety of jobs such as short order cook, warehouse employee and sales of various products and services.

But the position he held last before leaving for California was a day care center teacher.  While working at the day care center Matt became the primary aide for a 3 year old boy with Cerebral Palsy.  The boy could not speak, walk or feed himself.  Matt and little Justin became inseparable. 

This work was Matt’s calling,” his parents explained.  “We know he loved his work, and would have connected it to the degree he planned to obtain at Chico State.

Matt was a young man who had much more real life experience than the average person his age who followed the more traditional path of high school, college, degree and job.  The experience Matt gained while holding a variety of jobs, his Marine duty, and the experience in day care centers, especially with Justin, all contributed to molding him into a compassionate man.

He had a plan to server people in his future.  But that future never came.

As his parents, we saw him grow from a somewhat self-centered, immature, rebellious teen, into a caring gentle and focused young man he was on the night of  June 17, 2003,” the Messina’s said. 

Matt’s two sisters, Tracy and Valerie, have suffered as well.  As young women in their 20s, they will have to spend the rest of their lives without their big brother. 

“This is an immeasurable loss emotionally, since both girls relied on Matt for advice and support,” said the parents. “Who do they go to now? They had a relationship that cannot be replaced by any other person.   We are all at a loss forever.” 


by Catherine M. Pallozzi, daughter of Frances Pallozzi, killed by a drugged driver

“Drugged Driving” was a term I had not heard until that date.   Mom and her friends were preparing for a 5K walk with the Volksporters walking group outside a church.  They were killed by Luann Burgess, who had taken a cocktail of prescription drugs for Parkinson’s disease, including Xanax, Wellbutrin, Seroquel and others, prior to dropping off her son for summer camp.  Her SUV veered from the road and traveled approximately 200 feet across the church parking lot.  She struck and killed my mom, Carol Lansing and Rosemarie Hume as her vehicle came to a stop against the church bell tower.   The speed at first impact was 46 mph.  She made no attempt to brake.

Ms. Burgess did not leave the house that morning with the intent to kill three women but her poor decision, to drive while on a cocktail of prescription drugs, resulted in three incredible women being ripped from their husbands and families.

My family was left picking up pieces of our lives and establishing a ‘new normal’; I hate that phrase.  Prior to 8:46 a.m. on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 our lives were wonderful and blessed in many ways.  Mom was the nucleus of our family and the center of our celebrations.  The void in our ‘new normal’ lives is cavernous.

Years later, three families are still picking up the pieces.   Husbands who adored their wives continue to morn and grieve the loss of their childhood sweethearts.  Fourteen children miss their mothers.  The grandchildren still ask why this happened.

Why are lives taken at the hands of those under the influence of illicit or prescription drugs?  Our tragedy could have been avoided by a driver making the right choice and using better judgment.       



When we went to bed on Saturday night, July 18 at 11pm we were the parents of seven happy, healthy and successful children. Little did we know just how our lives were about to change.  On July 19, 2015 at 6am we were awakened by the ringing telephone, “Is this Mary Ann Stock?  This is the Albany Police would you please come to your front door?” And there in our living room, in the house where we raised our seven children, Art asked, “It’s Amy, isn’t it?”  The two plain clothed police officers nodded and told us that our daughter Amy was killed. Hit by a drunk driver on Henry Johnson Blvd in Albany.  We remember showing them the seven senior portraits on the living room wall and pointing out Amy.  After that, much of the day and following week are a blur. We had to call our other six children and keep it together long enough to get the words out, “Amy’s gone…killed by a drunk driver.”  And then listen to the scream or palpable silence on the other end of the line...each of our children reacting to the news in his or her own way. The one constant thought continually replaying through Art’s head, even today is, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen. My daughter isn’t supposed to die before me.”

“Even now, it doesn’t feel real. It all feels like a dream.” When Mary Ann went to see her body at the funeral parlor, to say “good bye”, Amy didn’t look dead. She looked peaceful and her arm felt warm. Art couldn’t bring himself to go see Amy after she was killed. Only our son Tom joined his mother. The rest of her siblings just couldn’t bear the pain and torture of seeing Amy dead.  Shortly after that, Amy was cremated. Some of Amy’s ashes were buried at the cemetery. However, most of them were shared with friends and family. She is on the west coast with her friends at the Olympia Zen Center that she helped build. She is on the coast of Maine and the beach in Florida, with special friends she loved to visit. One of the hardest days was when Art headed out alone on a beautiful summer morning to take her ashes to one of their favorite spots in the Adirondacks. “Sitting there with Amy’s ashes, looking out over the lake and mountains, thinking about all the regrets, things I should have told her and wondering if I was a good father”.

It’s amazing how after a tragedy like this, the little things just don’t matter. The material things are no longer important. All we have now are the memories. The fond memories of our days spent together at the pool, canoeing, hiking, traveling and laughing.

Cleaning out Amy’s apartment and going through her belongings was extremely difficult. Room by room, piece by piece we have gone through a lifetime of our daughters belongings, clothes, jewelry, high school and college memorabilia, photos, journals, paperwork and books. So, so many books.  She had just moved in a few weeks prior so many things were still in boxes.  Even still, we had to go through everything.  She had various papers and different lists and notes all over her apartment.  At one point we found a list titled “2015 Going to be a Great year!”  The list detailed the things Amy wanted to accomplish in 2015 like sell her house, move to Albany, publish her book and touch base with old friends. However, what we discovered next nearly brought us to our knees in grief.  On the back of this paper was another list titled “Biggest fears” The first two things listed were 1) being alone 2) dying alone.  Then, further down on the list was ….dying before I do it all! To this day, words cannot describe our grief as we stood in that kitchen reading about our daughters greatest fears and realizing how they had all just come true.

Then there was the funeral service to plan, obituary to write, cemetery plot, headstone, getting the word out to friends and family, making arrangements with the church. There was just so much to do, all taking its toll.

A week after Amy’s death, we had to begin to close out her accounts.  Our daughter Maureen was in charge of returning her cable modem and canceling her service with Time Warner. As the representative met her and walked with her to his desk, he asked  how he could help her today?.  She asked him to bear with her because she would probably cry, He said, “Oh no, don’t cry, we can fix anything” Her heart sank,  as she looked up at him and cried she said ”You can’t fix this”. Still crying, she choked out the words and told him she was there to cancel her sisters cable service because her sister was just killed by a drunk driver.  Crying, she handed him the box of supplies, still unopened as Amy had just started the service a week prior.

Our daughter Eileen was appointed the administrator of Amy’s estate. Having to make phone calls to the power company, insurance companies, banks, credit card companies, phone company telling them all that Amy was dead. Mailing death certificates, reviewing the police report, going through paperwork, bills, Amy’s entire office piece by piece making sure nothing was missed.  Not only did Eileen have to handle Amy’s accounts but she had to deal with Amy’s car insurance carrier. One day receiving a call from Jennifer, a claims representative, calling about the wrongful death claim for case #120984560-0101-037, a number to her but a sister gone too soon for Eileen. Jennifer called to offer less than half of the policy limit. When Eileen told her she expected the full amount of the policy the representative told Eileen that was impossible because, “Amy didn’t suffer!” “What, how do you know whether she suffered? How does anyone know??”  Here it was 6 weeks after losing Amy, coming face to face with the one big question, the thing that woke us all. “Did Amy suffer? Did she see that Black Dodge Charger coming at her? What about at the last minute? Did she feel pain?” Needless to say, the emotional and physical toll were just overwhelming those first months.

The holidays are hard…Amy’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. You see Amy was always the last to arrive and always the last to leave. She wouldn’t go until every last pan was washed and dish put way. She was thoughtful that way. She didn’t want us to be left with a mess to clean up.  It’s the little things we miss every day. Our trips to Peebles and then to New York Lunch for hot dogs. Or spending a Saturday morning in Saratoga with her…the dump, recycling center, farmer’s market and a stop at the “Egg Man”. Amy knew everyone at each of these places and always took the time to stop and talk and laugh.

Many have described her as an amazing person with such a good heart. Amy knew so many people. She seemed to make an impression on everyone she met.  From the man who sold her farm fresh eggs to the mayor of Saratoga Springs.  People came from all over to pay their respects: Missouri, Texas, Washington, D.C. as well as the shores of Maine. At one point during the visiting hours I looked back at the receiving line. It went down the side of the church, across the back, into the lobby, out the front door and down the street. At her funeral, a man came through the line and asked, “Do you know who I am?”  Mary Ann replied, “Sure, you’re the “Egg Man”! “

After the funeral, our son Tom, a photographer, gave us a beautiful portrait of Amy. It hangs in our family room and her eyes are so alive in that picture. It feels like she is watching over us. Following us as we walk from room to room.  And every night before bed we stop and glance at that picture and say, “Goodnight Aim.”

The man that killed Amy was a 22-year-old Army National Guardsman. A man who was trained to protect and serve his country. He had one prior conviction of DWAI at the age of 19.  He was driving 75 mph down an Albany city street.  He stopped long enough to let a passenger out of his car and then proceeded his rampage down the street running 3 stop sign intersections in the process.  At the point of impact, he was going 65 mph crushing the entire passengers side of Amy’s car.  The force of the impact permanently imbedded the bumper of his Dodge Charger into the crushed side of Amy’s car. An analysis of his blood alcohol level registered at .27 per cent. Six months after Amy’s death, the drunk driver was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 24 years in prison for Aggravated Vehicular Homicide.



It was a crisp December night, four days after Christmas, 1977. You are a police officer on a normal patrol. The pavement is dry; just a few stars twinkle above. Then the radio in your car crackles, “Auto accident, Route SB9J Northbound.” Unit 8720, another car, responds.

You and your partner are talking about some courses you have taken. The talk comes back to the accident that unit 8720 is handling.

The radio tells you they have called for rescue units, an investigator and medical examiner. God, it’s a bad one.

Thoughts about the New Year’s party at the chief’s house arise. You’re looking forward to it.

The radio crackles again, “8720 to 604. 604 on. Can we meet at your station?”

You respond, “Ten four. ETA oh-five min.” You arrive at headquarters just ahead of the other patrol and set up for coffee. The sergeant and patrolman come in and their faces show strain.

You become tense, the look tells you: “It’s your family!” Quickly thoughts of kissing them and telling them you’ll be home at 10 p.m. race through your mind. Goddammit!

“How bad?” you ask.

The sergeant replies, “Bad.”

They take your gun and belt, and next thing you know you’re under the red lights enroute to the hospital. The feelings take over. God, don’t let my family be hurt. Hurry up! That car won’t pull over, dammit, get out of the way!

The bright lights of the hospital, the smell and activity only add to your anxiety. The room they bring you to is cold.

“How are they?” you ask.

The boys are in the emergency room; we’ll know more later. Your wife of thirteen years is dead, so is your eight-year-old daughter, the medical examiner tells you. Two beautiful girls, both in looks and character. In just a few moments part of your life is destroyed.

The parish priest, your uncle and brother-in-law arrive, everyone is compassionate, trying to ease your grief. Why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? No one can answer.

Your thoughts go to the other driver, “If that s.o.b. is alive, I’ll fix him,” you holler. “I’ll kill him.”

Then you find out that he also died, but that does not ease your pain.

Mom – who’s with her? God, you want so to be with her!

A lone figure in blue appears and brings you coffee, a brother officer from the city who forever will be nameless. You see the pain in his eyes, “I’m sorry,” he says, and departs.

You are allowed to see your sons; the oldest, Michael, is twelve; Marc is six. Damn it, damn it, you say, the innocent shall suffer.

The nurses and interns work with dedication to soothe you.

Talk to the boys the priest says, and you do. Please, Mike and Marc, make it for me. Dear God, don’t take them too!

They take you back to the room down the hall. People in the hall look at you wondering. You wonder if they are “his” family.

Slowly time passes, and the boys are brought up to the intensive care unit on the sixth floor. You wait in the room next to it. You grab small bits of sleep. Only time will tell now.

Six a.m. and dawn is breaking. The uniform is damp with sweat, so your brother-in-law takes you home for clean clothes. As you enter the driveway the outside light is on, as is the one in the kitchen. The silence of your home is overpowering, the tears roll down your face. Exhaustion comes and you go up to sleep.

Later on you go back to the hospital. The doctors give Mike slim hopes of recovering, but Marc has a better chance.

So now comes the decision about Mike. Those people in New Jersey did it, and now you’ve got to. Papers are brought in and signed. Mike’s beautiful blue eyes go to the eye bank so maybe another will see the beauty he saw and enjoyed so much. His kidneys will go to someone who needs them.

You look in on the boys. Mike is pale. Marc’s color is pretty good despite the tubes, wires, and machines trying desperately to keep up his life’s functions.

Back to Mike’s bed, “Let him go to his mother and sister,” you say, “I love you, Mike.”

New Year’s Eve and the third part of your life is gone.

Father says mass on New Year’s Day at mom’s. He helps ease the burden that words can’t describe. Your wife, Barbara, had helped at Sunday School and had been involved in other activities at Sacred Heart Church. Your little princess, Karen, with her silly ways, had captured Father’s heart. Mike, the altar boy, had been liked by all he came in contact with. The three of them had done so much in their short lives. They were so involved – collecting for muscular dystrophy, swimming for cancer, Boy Scouting. Mike had worked hard for all his achievements. Karen had always been busy with her baton twirling, figure skating and Brownies. My Barbara, that beautiful person who was loved and liked by everyone.

These were three good people wasted. Your burning hatred is for that man; if he had killed himself only his family would have cared. “Curse him forever!” you hear yourself saying, “Suffer in hell all eternity, you bastard.”

Funeral arrangements, the wake, so many, many people. You try to hold together and watch out for mom. You try to remember all who come. Some sign the memorial book; some don’t.

After what seems a long, time, the people dwindle. It’s time to go.

The next morning you return to the funeral home. More people come and depart. Time for you to go, kiss them farewell, the tears burning down your cheeks.

Outside, many cars are lined up and move slowly with a police escort to the village church for Mass. All along the way the procession is escorted by police from the many towns you pass through. You wind your way into town where you see friends from your own department and the men from the State Police. They are all immaculate and precise in their uniforms.

The snow-covered church is ahead, inside, Father has left up the huge Christmas tree. It is decorated with home-made ornaments which the children made and it’s ablaze with hundreds of tiny white lights. Mass begins, and vaguely you hear the strains of “Amazing Grace.” The entire choir is here.

You cannot keep from looking at the three light blue coffins. “Why? In the name of God, why?”

Father invites all to receive communion, regardless of their religion. As people come up, you see a brother officer, more from other departments, Barbara’s employer, the children’s teachers. Boy Scouts, girls from Karen’s baton school, endless lines of empty faces. Then Mass is over. As you pass your home on the way to the cemetery you wonder what it will be like later.

Standing there the wind is crisp, sun shining. Father read from the book and blesses the coffins. “Dust to dust,” is what is heard faintly. Then one last look, walk away with heavy heart.

Every day for 30 days you go to the hospital with mom to see Marc, your youngest, fight for survival. For two weeks he’s in intensive care in a coma. Then he shows improvement every day. Soon he sits up and starts to eat a little solid food. He’s had a broken collar bone, lacerations and a severe concussion. You wonder what’s going on in his mind. How are we going to tell him? Later on mom tells Marc about Barbara, Mike and Karen. How she does it is beyond you, because you couldn’t.

Luckily Marc is doing pretty well in all areas, and he is soon released from the hospital. Mom had taken care of him, but now he wants to go home with you. You’ve got to get Barb’s purse at the State Police Station. Her paycheck is inside, uncashed, amid broken pieces of glass.

Soon after, a friend from the police department gives you a report. The other driver was drunk. They did a thorough investigation. You never liked a drinking driver. Now you hate them all. He had been on welfare. Our tax dollars had helped kill your family.

The hate flares up. He had money to drink but not to feed his family or provide for their other needs.

The tavern owners had served him for quite a while. They never should have let him drive in his condition. Very bitter feelings for these people well up inside you. Shortly after the accident, the tavern where this man was drinking catches fire and burns down. Ironic circumstances. A local newspaper carries the article and pictures with the headline, “Tragic Loss for Owners.” You have that newspaper’s coverage of your loss, pictures too. Full front-page, headlined “Head On Crash Kills 3.” The words “Tragic Loss” did not appear then.

Sometime in May 1978 you learn that a testimonial dinner had been held for the couple that owned the tavern. About $1,000 had been collected to help them reopen their bar. Only a few know I’ve instituted a lawsuit against them for serving that drunken driver.

No, they are not back in business. The State Beverage Control has their license.

Many months have gone by now, months of frustration and worry. Many trips to the hospital and doctors for my son’s check-ups. Finally one burden is eased as he is released from medical care. He shows no lasting physical or emotional problems, it is hoped he never will. The nights for you are not too restful. When sleep does come, you waken with the thoughts of the accident, reliving it all over again and again.

Shortly after your loss, another accident occurs not far from the same spot where ours took place. A young man is killed and he leaves a wife and child. The other driver, another drunk, survives. This person is arrested for driving while intoxicated and released without bail.

One, two adjournments and finally he is sentenced to loss of license to drive for one year, three years’ probation and to attend rehabilitation clinic.

It’s damn easy! Take a person’s life with a gun or knife and you’ll get at least a few years in jail. Kill him with a car while under the influence of alcohol and you walk away.

No wonder many police officers are disgusted and discouraged. The arrest, printing and photographing, the breath test all take lots of time and taxpayers’ money. And all that happens to the DWI driver is sentencing on reduced charges.

Sure, his insurance premium goes up. But so should his liability. Not that money will ease the pain of the loss, but maybe it will help those left behind to at least make an attempt to keep going on.

In most cases burial expenses cannot be met, in addition to hospital costs and the many others incurred with the loss of life. In our case, the drinks served have cost our family over $40,000 – a big price for $6-7 worth of liquor.

Such people should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. There is now a bill in the State Senate which would prevent them from being able to plead to reduced charges and there are a number of other bills pending in the Legislature which would toughen laws on drinking and driving. They should be passed.

And if you’re one of the people who takes that extra drink or two before getting behind the wheel of your car, please clip this article and keep it somewhere where you’ll see it everyday.

- Bill Dikant, Castleton-on-Hudson, NY


It was Easter Sunday March 31, 1991. Our beautiful daughter Elizabeth J. Andersen died two days before her eighteenth birthday of injuries sustained in a car crash March 28th, 1991.

 The DRUNK DRIVER that caused a head on collision had been drinking and partying all day in his red pickup truck. A vehicle that was unregistered, uninspected, four bald tires, faulty steering and no insurance. The man started his day with four shots of Black Velvet and at the time of the crash twelve hours later had a blood alcohol content of .25. Two and one-half the legal New York State limit.

 Elizabeth's's friend Chaundra Tyler was driving her car. She died at the scene. The steering wheel impaled her chest and her heart burst. She was a sophomore in High School. Michael Hamilton a seventeen year old senior in high School was a passenger in the back seat. He survived with multiple injuries and a head injury. He has permanent steel rods in both legs.

 Elizabeth was a passenger in the front seat. On impact her feet were crushed, her legs were broken, her hips were shattered, her spleen was ruptured, she had a severe head injury, she had a fracture to the left side of her head and many facial cuts and lacerations.

 Elizabeth was helicoptered to a hospital 45 minutes away by car and 15 minutes by air. In flight she had to be resuscitated. Elizabeth spent four hours in surgery, they had to remove her spleen and stop the internal bleeding. The plastic surgeon must then put her beautiful face back together. He sewed her nose back on, her chin back on and her ear back on.. He also sewed up many cuts and deep lacerations.

 The head injury was a time bomb. Swelling doesn't occur for twenty-four hours, and that time was drawing near. On Saturday morning (both her blood pressure dropped and her pulse rate soared. The brain was reacting. The prognosis was bleak.

 On Sunday (Easter) her Doctor gathered us all in a tiny room. We could tell by the look on his face the news was bad. Her brain had swollen and cut off the fluid from the spine. She was brain dead. Emily screamed "Let's take her home anyway." My husband started to cry and I refused to listen. I was so empty and numb. I do remember the Doctor saying things like: Organ donating, unhooking life support and what Funeral Home do you want the body sent to. "Not my baby, take me". I was never able to enter her hospital room again. I could not watch my daughter take her last breath.

 It was over, my daughter was dead because somebody was stupid. He, The drunk, took the life of a young lady who had her whole life ahead of her.

 Elizabeth had joined the Air Force. She was willing to give her life to her country. Instead a DRUNK DRIVER took it. She missed her Senior Trip and the sports banquet. I had to receive her Gold Letter in sports for eight Varsity Letters in her athletic career. At Graduation we stared at an empty space where Elizabeth should have been sitting. That same empty space that is in all of our hearts.

 Elizabeth missed the Prom, but she did get to wear the dress I made her. It was beautiful. She was cremated in it.

 This DRUNK DRIVER not only took my daughter, he also took my right to a son-in-law and grandchildren. He destroyed a branch of our Family Tree. Generations gone, WILLIAM SKINNER killed me that Easter Sunday too: "ONLY I DIDN'T DIE"


The scourge of losing my 26 year old son Paul Philip Grammatico to a drunk driver leaves scars ~and I chew on my thorns in the stunning reality of Paul’s death each day My title of MADD Mother was impaled on me and it breaks my heart. Paul was my past, my present and my future, my only Son. He was a natural leader, an extremely generous young man, the epitome of loyalty and possessed passion, motivation for life, and a true goal setter. Our hopes as a family was crushed against the pole that split open Paul’s head in four places. I cannot experience him. He is not physically in my life. I cannot touch him, cannot hear his charismatic voice, he cannot hold me and whisper as he always did, “Mom I Love You”.   Nothing new will happen between us.

Paul’s life was cut short by a man who with total regard for sacred life and his own, took control of road rage and the power and influence of alcohol and speed and wiped out; annihilated, in a nano- second, the brilliant promising productive life of my child. My entire family dynamics has been altered and traumatized and we cannot measure our loss.

Paul had No Voice.! No Choice! No second chance in his death! His injuries were so horrific and devastating; I did not recognize my childL. His handsome face had no features .He was declared brain dead. Just hours before he was an effervescent young man with a big heart helping get ready for the wedding of his sister. Instead, we had two funerals and my daughter Christine is condemned to life without her only sibling/brother.

The offender was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to jail to serve 21/3 to 7 years. At his sentencing the Judge gave him an ‘F’ for failure and told him he was every parent’s worst nightmare, he was a criminal; he took hold of 3,000 lbs of steel and killed two young men. During his time in jail, he never reached out to either family and his parole was denied twice. He served 4 years in jail, never accepting responsibility and ownership for his heinous crime and deadly actions. I have a ‘24 hour life time’ sentence on earth in an un-structed jail without my precious son.

These are shared words from the eye witness to the death of Paul and Mike.

…”As a surviving victim of the May 16, 1999 double fatality, the horror of witnessing the death of Paul and Michael will never leave me. The anguish and nausea I feel of those two young men being propelled like rag dolls, so high, crashing so hard against telephone wires, is almost unbearable. The drunk driver never expressed his sorrow for his cowardly act; I am not in favor of his parole…”

My Son Paul leaves a legacy of himself in his own Circle of People in Organ Donation.

In the declaration of brain dead, I donated all of my son and he saved the lives of 11 people. This gives purpose and meaning in the senseless way Paul died. Neglected and abused children live in a building named after Paul at MercyFirst in Syosset, NY. Paul’s story continuously echoes of drunk driving very loud and clear, resonating each time I communicate as a sorrowful MADD Mother /Donor Mom. Recently, Kathleen Rice, DA of Nassau County opened the Grammatico Wrestling Tournament at Valley Stream H.S. in NY. As DA Rice stood next to me along with Paul’s heart recipient, the song I wrote; ‘The Gift of Life and Love’ was played to proclaim the message of DWI and the Miracles in Organ Donation. Witness and voice gives power and transforms me as shattered victim into Survivor~ remembering, the presence in the absence of my Beloved Son/Sun Paul!

Caveat in Paul’s Death.

The story of Paul’s death is more than just a crime.

Beside MADD work and Organ Donation it is also about Forgiveness.

Years into the journey of life without my physical Son/Sun,

 I realized that my anger was toxic to my spiritual well being.

 It was a noose around my neck.

 I decided at that time to reach out and ‘forgive’ the man who killed Paul and Mile.

 I knew he would never contact me as Mother or the other Mom.

I had to make the first move.

I wrote a letter to the parole officer.

The offender answered eventually.

…In few words he said, “I did the crime and I did the time”

and furthermore, he needed to go forth with his life and not look back..

Was it a slap in my face?

No absolutely Not!!!!

I forgave for me so that I could go to another level.

I put it in the universe!

I learned that I cannot reach out and touch others with a clenched fist!!!

I cannot be all that I can be staying in chaos.

Forgiveness is Powerful!

It is ‘life affirming’ to my broken heart!

It released bondage, gave freedom, new opportunities, challenge, second chances,

spiritual wisdom, rebirth, Transformation and Hope.

I will never ever forget how Paul died. L

But because I have assigned ‘purpose and meaning’

 in the death of my Paulie, I am blessed.

Each breath I take every new day is renewal of God’s Gift.

I am only one breath away from my precious Son/Sun~

but the chance to make a difference is Now.

Claudia Grammatico

MADD Mother/Donor Mom


By: Tracy Reynolds 

My daughter, Samantha Lynn Reynolds, was 14 years old when her life was taken by a drunk driver. She had spunk and sass, and was eager for the future in high school. She attended Soule Road Middle School in Liverpool, NY and participated in many sports. She was a very athletic girl who loved lacrosse, diving, cheerleading and gymnastics.

Samantha was a very emotional teenager with normal teenage issues … what clothes to wear… where she was going to be after school… and drama, drama, drama. I called her my “drama queen” sometimes, but she was always my “Scooby Doo.” She was just starting to come out of her shell and just starting to spread her wings. She was looking forward to her first trip to Florida and of course her first time at Disney World for spring break.

Samantha treasured her friends. She was always with them when she wasn’t in school or with her family. Her friends would say she was the life of the crowd and was always making people laugh. She had a sense of humor; she was kind, giving and very loveable. She made the bad days seem good.

Samantha loved her family. Family Sunday dinners were always her favorite. She loved going to North Carolina, camping in the Adirondacks, and visiting theme parks. Samantha and her sister, Renee, and brother, Anthony, did almost everything together. Her favorite holidays were Fourth of July, Halloween and Christmas. She even attended Sunday school.

Samantha loved taking pictures of herself, hoping one day to be a model.

All of this was taken from us on April 12, 2008 when a drunk driver made a solid CHOICE to get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. On a stretch of I-95 in Clarendon County, South Carolina, he sideswiped two vehicles, picked up speed, and then sideswiped my family’s van.

My daughter, Samantha Lynn Reynolds, was ejected and died at the scene. My son had a lacerated liver with shattered glass in his face and required 50 stitches to his knee. My other daughter, Renee, had bleeding on her brain and a sprained ankle. My kids’ stepmother was crushed from head to toe and received critical injuries. Their father and two other passengers had minor injuries. THEN the driver slammed head-on into another New York family’s van. The Griffins were also traveling to Florida on their spring vacation.

A local newspaper reported that my daughter was pronounced dead at the scene and that 13 people, including the drunk driver, were injured in the crash.

When I received the phone call around 5 a.m. that morning, I NEVER NEVER thought I would have been having that conversation. I was told on the phone that Sam had not made it, and that I had to drive 750 miles from Onondaga County to pick up the rest of the family and bring them back home.

Once I arrived at Palmetto Hospital in South Carolina, I was directed to the MICU unit where I found my son, Anthony Roscoe, and my children’s stepmother, Brenda Mauro. It is still very difficult for me to deal with the reality of trying to comfort my son who had just witnessed his sister’s death. I could not make it better or make it go away.

Renee, my other daughter, was on a completely different floor than the rest of the family. Renee’s room was around the corner from a passenger in the other van, Ashley Griffin. Ashley, also age 14, had a lacerated liver, a fractured eye socket and other injuries.

I remember that while I was down in the South Carolina to pick up the rest of the family, I received a call from a modeling agency in Florida looking to interview Samantha to model for them.

This one horrifying day changed the lives of so many. Many others who were traveling that day stopped and got out of their vehicles to try to help. The Griffin family and our family have since met at the cemetery where Samantha was laid to rest.

Samantha was loved by so many. I did not realize how many lives she touched until the days we spent having to say goodbye.

Since the crash, our home and family have been destroyed. As her mom, I am very lost. My home is quiet with no more friends to come over and hang out and call me ‘Mom.’ I am left with only pictures and memories of what once was. Her room is now closed off and left untouched. Every now and then, we go in there to reminisce about her life and try to make sense of all that has happened.

Living without Samantha is, and always will be, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Even years later, I cry every night. Her crash site is now my vacation spot where I monitor a cross I placed there in her memory. I visit Samantha’s gravesite often.

My life is not the same, nor will it ever be. I could go on for days and days about my suffering if it would help. My struggles are forever. They cannot be erased or forgotten about, and there is no moving on. My life, and the lives of countless others, were forever altered that day.

I struggle with how to make sense or how to give my daughter’s death meaning… Lord knows, I would give my life just to hear her voice or see her smile. But as I know this will never happen, I try to figure out how I can bring awareness and justice to all those drivers who force families like ours to deal with this kind of tragedy.