Our Loving Memory

In 1978, Maria Pia Gratton left Italy and came to the United States with her loving husband and their two young sons. Pia, a young woman of 30, rarely traveled beyond her native land's border, but she was eager to see the world and meet its people. Like all things she did in her life, Pia did it 100 percent and, upon arriving in the States, she dedicated her heart and soul to the quest of creating a new, wonderful life for her family and herself. A life with a simple philosophy based not on words, but on a bright, shining example, set by her warm, radiant smile.

Pia walked through life with a sway in her hips and a kiss on her lips. Those who met her were stunned by her beauty and bountiful generosity. Her eyes gleamed with life and everywhere she went life winked back. Whether it was at the disco, as she danced the Salsa all night long in her 3- inch heels, or in the turquoise waters of Hawaii, as she battled waves and biting winds to navigate goliath windsurfs across the waters of Kailua Bay. Pia would walk to the edge of a cliff just to snap a good picture or stay late at work to help a student solve a computer problem. No matter where and when, Pia, the petite Italian woman, struggled against the odds and obstacles pitted against her and rose to every occasion. As her beloved sons were beginning to conquer their own worlds, she dreamed of having a daughter and, in 1985, Pia and Enrico brought Valentina into the world. In an age where being a mother sometimes means sacrifice, Pia never compromised her dreams and aspirations. In a society where being a strong woman often means acting less like one, Pia never compromised her femininity. She raised three beautiful, talented children, never compromising her freedom or theirs. As a mother, she gave love and friendship; she never told her children what to do, she taught by example. Her children learned to live fearlessly and give abundantly. Through her, they learned to meet the world with warmth, confidence and undying resolve.

As a woman, an immigrant, and a mother Pia built a career. When she came to the United States, she had two small children, no friends, little grasp of the English language, and a degree in math--just her kind of challenge. Pia rolled up her sleeves and went to work. She enrolled in classes to learn computer programming and English. She put her children through school and went on job interviews. She got a job, made friends, bought a home, and built her life, brick-by-brick. If it was the World she chose to conquer, she could have done it--not with force, but with intelligence and determination. Along her way, the people she met learned to depend on Pia, not only because she was willing and more than capable of helping, but because when she helped, she gave her all; no task or person was too important or unimportant. The young undergraduate and the mature professor could count on Pia. She patiently listened to their problems, whether professional or personal, then would offer her most sincere advice. If you had a weight on your shoulders, she could lift it; if it was too heavy, she would help you carry it.

Those who knew Pia Gratton, knew of her strength and determination; her warmth and goodness; her unconditional love and caring. Those who knew her, loved her. She turned everything to gold with her contagious laughter, her soft smile, and her vibrant eyes.

On October 31, 1995, Pia was murdered by a person who apparently had become obsessed with her magical qualities. Her life and love, with which she graced everyone who crossed her path, were abruptly and senselessly stripped away. But those who truly knew Pia know that she is not gone, because her bright light still lives in us, among us, and through us. Her strength and great beauty of character are not qualities that can die. Those who truly knew Pia know that their lives will never be the same, for Pia had given them a new standard for friendships, a new standard for love; she had redefined the meaning of passion for life. In family, career, and all aspects of life, Pia had met the world with unshakable faith, unquestionable strength, and undying love. Those who knew Pia, knew all of Pia: the beautiful woman, the caring mother, the loving wife, the dependable coworker, the intimate friend, the devoted student, the patient teacher, and the daring traveler. Though Pia is gone, her light still lives with us. It is our desire to continue carrying her torch.