By Patrick Donachie
Hundreds gathered at St. Helen’s Church in Howard Beach Saturday to mourn the death of Karina Vetrano, with many inside the church having to stand to fit into the space. Like the town hall meeting that would be held two days later, the church set up loudspeakers outside to let those who could not enter hear the eulogies for the 30-year-old jogger who was found murdered earlier that week.
Firefighters from nearby station houses were among those outside, creating a line at the entrance to the church. Vetrano’s father Phil, a retired FDNY firefighter, was among the speakers during the funeral. Mourners and well-wishers tied white ribbons around lampposts and trees along the route to the church.
“She lived every day as if it were her last, getting the very most out of every second,” he said. “She was my life and words cannot say how much I love her.”
Cathy Vetrano also spoke before the crowd of attendees and in honor of her daughter she read a poem that she sent her daughter in 2003 that described her as as having the “heart of a lion” and the “soul of a lamb.”
Father Francis Colamaria, the pastor for the church, delivered the homily for the funeral mass, addressing a family and a community that had been stunned by the murder.
“This parish, this family, this neighborhood, this city is gathered here in prayer, wracked by grief, at the loss of Karina,” he said. “She is now counted as one of our parishioners beyond the grave, and she will not be forgotten.”
He also cautioned against those who may speak with “words of hate and words of vengeance,” saying that they would do nothing to honor the life Vetrano led, and briefly alluded to the killer, saying that he would face God’s judgment and vengeance.
Outside the funeral, friends and relatives carried the coffin to the hearse. It is customary for pall bearers from a funeral home to carry the casket.
Additional reporting by Michael Shain. Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona