Westchester Woman Visits Cemeteries for Loved Ones

Terry Marotta Lopriore makes the trip for those who can't make it to see their lost loved ones' graves

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    NEWSLETTERS

    At a time when families are gathered around the table, we can't help but think about those who are no longer with us. And one Westchester woman found a unique way to help people reconnect with the loved they've lost. Andrew Siff reports. (Published Thursday, Nov 24, 2011)

    At a time when families are gathered around the table, one Westchester woman has found a unique way to help people reconnect with the loved they've lost.

    Terry Marotta Lopriore found the most unusual calling while visiting her dad's grave at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, N.Y.

    "I'm walking up to see my dad, and I start making the walk up the hill, I could hear in my head my father saying, 'Why don't you do this for other people?,'" said Lopriore, a paralegal business owner.

    So Lopriore decided to offer to make cemetery visits on behalf of surviving loved ones who couldn't make it, whether it was because of distance or disability. She decided to charge only for the price of gas and flowers, about $25.

    Lopriore regularly logs two miles a day, five days a week at the cemetery.

    "This is not my moneymaker," Lopriore said. "I do this out of respect for my dad and out of respect for everyone else who's lost a loved one."

    Marguerite Thompson is exactly the type of person Lopriore wants to help.

    At 79 years old, Thompson uses an elevator to go up and a walker to get around her Piscataway, N.J., home. She's a cheerful retiree, but she can't help thinking about the loved one she's lost.

    Her parents, Emil and Marguerite, died decades ago. So did her brother, at age 10. And just a few years ago, her husband Thomas passed away.

    "I was brought up in a family who respected the dead, and you went to the cemetery, no matter what," she said.

    Thompson is able to visit her husband's grave, at Resurrection Burial just down the street from her house. But her parents are buried 68 miles away.

    That's where Lopriore entered the picture.

    On a recent day, Lopriore visted her favorite florist and picked out a bright bouquet of flowers. She drove to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthoren, walked to the grave of Thompson's parents and placed the bouquet there.

    "I know that it gives her peace of mind, which is very difficult these days, and for that, I'm grateful," said Lopriore.

    "It's not instead of someone -- it's because of someone that I'm there," she added.

    Later that night, Thompson went to her computer in her study and was thrilled to find pictures of flowers by her parents' grave.

    "Terry is a godsend," she said. "She's representing me -- there!"

    Thompson's family may be just the beginning. Lopriore knows there are many more who want to reconnect with lost loved ones, but can't make the journey.