New York Times Portraits of Grief

Suzanne Passaro

Howard Levy watched with admiration as his former secretary, Suzanne Passaro, who treated him better than his mother did, got her broker's license and worked her way up at the Aon Corporation.

"She always considered herself an unlucky person, and it really proved out," he said. "When she got a promotion and a nice raise, she bought a new condo for herself in a different part of Jersey, on a different transportation line, and got in at 8:30." She used to arrive later for her former job, late enough so that she would have survived on Sept. 11, he said.

Ms. Passaro, 38, of East Brunswick, N.J., was a client service specialist known for a down-to-earth exuberance. She played Santa for two homeless girls and kept her silver-tipped angora cat, Max, looking as if he belonged on a Friskies box.

Her sister, Irene Durbin, remembers how she sang karaoke under the stars at a campground in Bucks County, Pa. Patsy Cline. "Crazy." In the woods. "She would only do it where she felt comfortable, where she knew she wouldn't run into somebody the next day," Ms. Durbin said.

Their mother, Hlne Passaro, loved that Suzanne was born on Mother's Day. "She was a wonderful gift."