Few tragedies in this or any community have generated a greater response to show the power of the human spirit than the one we memorialize here today. I personally regret not being able to attend as I will still be on assignment in Puerto Rico. However, whoever reads these words will know that my soul joins with all others who want to find a way to celebrate with a sense of joy found, in the memory of Pia, that we have found a way to perpetuate her infectious spirit and will to succeed.
As Enrico told me, she was not one to mourn or live in fear. That example clearly lives on in the lives of her family and we all can reflect upon it and realize that it ameliorates our sense of loss and anguish over what is still a tragedy. It gives us, who are part of the larger community an opportunity to be involved in a constructive way that will make the family's quest for a memorial be more meaningful.
To add to the good feelings from my memories of Pia is somewhat restricted as it has been a long time since I first met her and helped her win a chance to be a computer programmer for Colwell Systems, Inc. in Champaign [see photograph]. Although she applied for a position with a minimal ability to speak in English, her smile and keen penetrating look said a lot about her sense of confidence. I knew immediately that she would not fail! I hope others, who worked more closely with her will volunteer additional comments about her fine ability to help others.
As I recall she helped us get started with a new type of data base management software and for a 'trial project' undertook an interesting task with my family history. She put together an unusual example to show how the computer could extract interesting and useful information and then arrange an index for it while outputting typeset pages. This small project has left a legacy for my family called "The Tryon Family in America". One day someone will do the same for her family, and her story will be an important part of it.
Pia's energy and vitality were quickly found by her associates to provide a most friendly and helpful aura. It was a contagious thing that helped others achieve more. John Whitcomb, Mike Clark, and other according to Joe McGinley will be among the group present today, and all of them have fond memories of working with Pia.
One of the best products of Pia's enthusiasm for life can now be unleashed in her memory. According to Enrico, my original letter to the News Gazette has inspired others to want to see a Memorial Foundation Scholarship put together. It is now ready and checks have already been sent to University of Illinois: Pia Gratton Travel Fund at Harker Hall 1305 W. Green St. in Urbana, Illinois 61801. I hope that many others will follow.