ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The attention of the more than 300 people who count themselves as family, friends, and those touched by the existence of Ruthanne Giammittorio Lodato was fixed on the entrance door to the mass hall of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.
They watched the Sedona red shaded casket that held the woman who spent her Sunday's in the the same pews they occupied make its way down the aisle.
The enormity of the moment was evident in the tears of immense sorrow that flowed from nearly every eye in the room.
"In the waters of Baptism, Ruthanne Lodato died with Christ and rose with him through life," said Pastor Rev. John C. Cregan, as he blessed Lodato with a picture of her being held up in front of him.
And, just before sprinkling Holy Water over the casket he finished the prayer, "May she now share with him eternal glory."
When every seat in every pew was filled at Lodato's funeral Saturday, people stood leaning on the walls inside the hall, and when there was no more wall to stand against, a standing room crowd of more than a hundred gathered in the lobby.
No suspects have been found in the shooting of the 59-year-old music teacher, who was killed after she opened the door of her Alexandria home on Jan. 6. The FBI has joined the investigation.
In remembering his friend, Mark Marini gave his own rendition of "Hello, everybody, so glad to see you" -- a line Lodato was fond of singing.
He recalled how Lodato helped his son learn the piano, and was "the rock" that everyone counted upon at the church.
"Ruthanne showed up day in and day out so glad to see you," Marini shared.
Lodato's high school friend Joan Gartlan talked lovingly about the girl she became friends with when they were both 14. They remained close for more than 40 years.
"Ruthanne was one of those people in all of our lives, who actually does what the rest of us talk about doing and makes our lives so much better as a result," Gartlan said, adding, "Ruthanne, we love you, we miss you, and the world will never be the same without you."
Joe Kelly has been the Lodato's neighbor for 15 years and says the area they live in "will always be Ruthanne's neighborhood." Kelly lightened the mood when he joked that Ruthanne always made sure her neighbors never ran our of flour or sugar. That might change now, he teased, because her husband, Norm, "probably doesn't know where she kept the flour."
The stories told about Lodato revealed a woman who was loved and revered, who spent her time to build hope, not forecast doom, and who lived by the tenets of her Catholic faith.
"We thank God for her faithful witness by living out her vocation in the family, as a daughter, sister, wife, and mother," said Pastor Cregen.
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