By Mark Boshnack
State police at Sidney announced Friday the funeral arrangements for Trooper Jill E. Mattice of Oneonta. The mourning process continues on a local and state level.
The 31-year old trooper, assigned to the Oneonta barracks, died at about 2:50 p.m. Wednesday, troopers said.
She was driving her patrol car east on state Route 23 when her vehicle drifted into the westbound lane and sideswiped an oncoming tractor-trailer about two miles from the village of Morris, troopers said. The investigation into the accident is continuing, as troopers said the reason Mattice's vehicle left its lane is still unknown.
Mattice grew up in Cheektowaga, where her parents and brother still live.
A wake is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday and 4 to 8 p.m. Monday at Amigone Funeral Home at 2600 Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda, according to the release.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church at 8445 Greiner Road in Williamsville. Interment will follow at White Chapel Memorial Park at 3210 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst, according to the release.
The 61/2-year state police veteran was returning to the barracks after a shift as school resource office at Unadilla Valley Central School when the accident occurred, troopers said. She divided her time between that district and Franklin Central School.
At Franklin, the school hadn't finished mourning 2006 graduate Marine Cpl. Nick Uzenski, who recently died in combat in Afghanistan, when the news came about Mattice, ,school officials had said.
Extra counselors were on duty on Thursday and staff was still providing support Friday, Superintendent Gordon Daniels said.
"Thursday was pretty rough," he said.
Along with special "care rooms" set up for students and teachers, guidance counselors came from Delhi and Walton Central schools and DCMO BOCES to help school personnel provide comfort.
To follow up on its Thursday morning meeting, the school's crisis team met Friday morning to reassure staff that support was still available, he said.
This included school psychologist Jen Potrzeba, who said "it was so hard to be there, to comfort the kids, when you are mourning yourself."
One of the girls wanted to pray, but was concerned that may be wrong at school, she said. But Potrzeba assured the girl it was okay, she said. Otherwise, religion was not part of the process, Potrzeba said.
Having to deal with two deaths together compounded the loss for many, school guidance counselor Suzanne Swantak said. The grieving process can go through similar stages, but because Mattice was a mentor to so many, her loss was different, she said.
Marv Root, a school substitute, is also a retired chaplain. He was at the school Thursday and Friday.
He was among those who encouraged students to either write or draw something in memory of "Trooper Jill" as a means of working through the grief, he said. The banner, which ran the length of the cafeteria, will be presented to the family.
Root spoke to 90 percent of the 65-member staff Friday and reminded them that grief was a process, and "we are all here to support one another in the days ahead."
One of those who found the support of so many invaluable in dealing with the two deaths was senior Ariel Osterhout.
"In a small school, everyone knows everyone," she said. "If you need help, you can find it."
At Unadilla Valley Central School, Superintendent Robert Mackey said Friday was a much smoother day, thanks to the efforts of the school crisis team.
The school is in the process of working with Franklin school and state police to put together a local memorial, he said. There were a couple of extra staff supporting people on Friday, and support will be available as needed.
The past few days confirmed the strength of staff and students, he said.
Capt. Rodney Campbell is the state police at Oneonta zone commander that supervised Mattice. He said that although the troopers and other staff were all dealing with the loss in their own way, "they are holding up alright."
There have been some ups and downs, as can be expected following such a loss, but the state police have an employee assistance plan that has helped, he said.
According to Troop C public information officer Nelson Torres, the plan includes 10 investigators who work with family, troopers and staff. "They are very much appreciated," he said.
Trooper Mattice's husband, Troy Mattice, works at Corning in Oneonta.
Corning human resources manager Maria Desimone said "We are sending our condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
Gov. David A. Paterson has directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff Tuesday in honor of Mattice, according to a release.
"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I would like to express my sympathy to the friends, family, and colleagues of Trooper Mattice," Paterson said in the release. "Known simply as 'Trooper Jill' to the students she worked with every day, Trooper Mattice earned the respect of her colleagues as well as those she served. Her steady guidance and leadership will not be forgotten."
Mark Boshnack can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 218, or at email@example.com.