Bogota funeral for once-missing woman doesn’t bring closure
February 25, 2013, 8:31 PM
BOGOTA — Burying his wife has not brought closure to Jim Viola and his family, but it closes a chapter on a saga that started 12 years ago, when the 42-year-old mother vanished without a trace from the family’s Chestnut Avenue home. “She is with God now, we know that for sure,” he said following a funeral Mass Monday. “Instead of the unknown — of going on forever and ever — there is some sense of relief…that at least now we know, while at the same time we are trying to find out what happened. But it’s by no means closure.” For more than a decade, the family hoped that they would find Patricia Viola alive, but those dreams ended in September when the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner notified the local police department that it had matched DNA from a bone fragment found on Rockaway Beach on July 27, 2002 to samples submitted by Patricia Viola’s children, Michael, 22, and Christine Washington, 25. “You always want to bury your loved one,” Jim Viola said. “And it is Pat. It may not be all of Pat, but it is still Pat.” Earlier that morning, Jim Viola carried a small white container, slightly larger than a shoe box, with his wife’s remains into St. Joseph’s Church. It was where the couple was married in 1986, where their children were baptized and where they received Catholic sacraments. So it was only fitting that’s where about two dozen family members, a smattering of former co-workers, borough residents and friends would say their final good-byes. “You didn’t stop hoping — and you fought for her,” said The Rev. Richard Supple, who presided over the service. Supple noted St. Joseph’s played a big role in the family’s life.
Michael, who was 10 when his mother disappeared, was an altar server there. And Christine, just 13 at the time, was active in the church’s youth group during her adolescent years. Jim Viola is still an usher. Patricia Viola had inherited her love for her fellow man from her mother, Lucille Marri, who died in 2010, and had passed it on to her children, Supple said. There was no eulogy, but Jim Viola said later that his wife enjoyed spending time with her family and friends. “She loved entertaining,” he said adding she was also fond of roller coaster rides and the Jersey Shore. “She enjoyed having our friends over for our pool parties, for barbecues, dancing, and singing.” What happened to Patricia Viola remains a mystery.
She was last seen alive around 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 13 2001, after leaving E. Roy Bixby Elementary School where she volunteered at the library. When she got home, Patricia Viola called her mother and reset the house’s alarm around 1 p.m., police said. She was never seen again, leaving behind her purse, identification, cellphone, cash, credit cards, keys and epilepsy medication, authorities said. In the course of trying to find his wife, Jim Viola worked with state legislators to help pass “Patricia’s Law,” which prohibits police from refusing to take missing-person reports and requires them to tell family members about support services. Police must attempt to gather DNA samples after 30 days.
The final break came in April 2011, after the family resubmitted DNA samples from Michael and Christine. The match was made last year. Viola said he is still working with his private investigator. “The police department still has the case open,” he said. “That DNA profile is still there, and will remain in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database for all eternity should something else be found.” Jim Viola had been slowly letting go even as he clung to the remote possibility that his wife might return. After his wife’s mother’s death, he started the process to legally declare Patricia dead, which he could have done after seven years. He also removed signs outside his home offering rewards for information and started “organizing” her belongings, which had remained the way she had left them. On Monday, a former secretary at Bixby Elementary School, said she was moved to attend the funeral to pay her final respects. “I really thought Pat was a wonderful person, and it was my last goodbye to her,” said the woman. Supple and the Rev. Paul Schweizer blessed the casket near the end of the 45-minute service. “In peace, let us take our sister to her place of rest,” he said before they departed the church.
Patricia Viola was buried at Hackensack Cemetery with her parents.
My mother was missing from February 13,2001 from our home in Bogota NJ. On September 11, 2012 Bogota police contacted us that they had a positive identification on some remains that washed up on Rockaway Beach in Queens NY on July 27, 2002 which belonged to my mother. We still have no idea what happened to her and I wish and pray we will get some justice for her.
Christine Washington- (Daughter)