Family, friends honor Louise Pietrewicz at memorial service

One by one guests filed in to Coster-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue to pay their respects to Louise Pietrewicz Saturday. 

There was Midge Marcell, who more than 50 years ago stood beside Louise as they worked the ice cream counter at the former Terp’s pharmacy on Main Road. Also present was Leo Jasinski, the older brother who once worked the family farm in Sagaponack with Louise, picking potatoes under the hot late summer sun. Greeting each visitor during the three-hour memorial service was Louise’s daughter Sandy Blampied, who said goodbye to mom as she boarded her school bus on Oct. 6, 1966, only to never see her again.

“I still never thought this day would come around,” said Ms. Blampied, now 63 years old. “I always hoped we’d find her, that I would know what had happened. I wanted it for myself, of course, but also for my Uncle Leo. But I had doubts.”

Those doubts were erased at about 8 p.m. on March 19, when a Southold Town police detective knocked on her door in upstate Middletown to notify Ms. Blampied that her mother’s remains had almost certainly been found. DNA testing would later prove it was Louise who was discovered buried nearly seven feet beneath a home on Lower Road in Southold.

Evidence recovered at the scene, including a pair of rotted .38 caliber bullets, show the Cutchogue resident died from three gunshot wounds to the abdomen, which police believe were fired by her married boyfriend, William Boken, a Southold town police officer who was living with his wife in the Southold home at the time Louise disappeared. Mr. Boken died in 1982.

Louise Pietrewicz’s niece, Beanie Zuhoski, looks through a book of photos of her aunt. The book was made by one of Ms. Blampied’s stepdaughters and presented to friends and family during the service. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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“When I came to the States two and half years ago, I knew nothing about this case,” said Rev. Mariusz Gorazd, associate pastor of Our Lady of Ostrabrama R.C. Church in Cutchogue, as he led a prayer at Saturday’s memorial service. “A few months back somebody came to my office and said, ‘Father, I would like to leave you a newspaper’ with a story about Louise. I was amazed at how it could be possible that still nothing [was known].

“On the day that police found Louise’s bones, [the same parishioner] called me and said ‘Father, they found her. We have her.”

Nearly everyone who spoke with reporters at the service — from close family members, to one-time neighbors and even some of the law enforcement officers who helped find her — expressed a sense of surprise by the turn of events that led to the March discovery.

“It’s closure for us, for the whole family,” said Joe Zuhoski of Cutchogue, husband to Louise’s niece, Beanie. “We never thought after all these years we’d ever know the truth. Everyone had theories, no one forgot, but none of us thought we’d have a day like today. This is one in a million — a miracle.”

Retired Southold Town police Sgt. Barney Harris speaks with Ms. Blampied. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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Southold police reopened the case of Louise’s disappearance last fall, shortly after The Suffolk Times launched its own investigation into the matter. Information in the 10,000-word special report and three-part documentary released by the paper last October has been credited with leading to the breakthrough in the case — an admission from Mr. Boken’s former wife, Judith Terry of Southold, that she saw her husband bury the body in 1966.

The Southold investigators whose interviews produced that admission, Det. Sgt. John Sinning and retired Detective Joseph Conway Jr., both attended the memorial service Saturday along with Chief Martin Flatley. Bud Griffiths of Orient, a retired state police investigator who began looking into the case in 2013 on behalf of Louise’s family and helped connect investigators from the past and present for an exchange of key information, also attended. So, too, did retired Southold Police Sgt. Barney Harris, who expressed regret to the family about the actions of town officials at the time of Louise’s disappearance, when he was serving as a patrol sergeant.

Rev. Gorazd leads a prayer at Saturday’s memorial service. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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Suffolk Times executive editor Steve Wick, who launched the paper’s investigation last summer, was asked by the family to say a few words at Saturday’s service.

“No one particularly wanted Louise to be forgotten and you all being here today proves she never really will be forgotten,” Mr. Wick said to the scores of visitors, some of whom said they never met Louise or her family but attended in tribute to her, paying their respects at tables carrying a photograph of her and an urn with her ashes.

Following the service, dozens of Louise’s relatives and their friends and families, gathered for a meal at the Griswold-Terry-Glover Post of the American Legion in Southold.

The adults ate kielbasa and sipped beer and coffee, as children laughed and played. Relatives exchanged stories not only of Louise, but of the life events she missed and the family members she never got to meet over the past five decades. Seated at the table closest to the entrance was Leo, who will turn 93 on Sunday, Mother’s Day.

“I always felt I would never know what happened to my sister,” the Riverhead resident said. “It’s a huge relief to know the truth after so many years.”

Top Caption: Ms. Blampied and cousin Barbara Swislosky stand before the urn carrying Louise’s ashes at the end of Saturday’s service. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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With reporting from Steve Wick and Krysten Massa.