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Justice won't forget Bobbe and Joe Wido


The bells at St. Michael's rang for Bobbe Wido on Friday morning. The Rev. Seamus Collins fondly recalled her "wonderful, contagious smile." A detective listened from the back pew.

Rarely did the priest mention Bobbe without Joe. "Thank God," he said, "for the gift of Bobbe and Joe." He called them friends, constant and well-liked members of the congregation.

A little more than two years earlier, Collins had offered similar accolades to Joe as Bobbe somehow stood strong next to her two daughters. At the entrance to the sanctuary, a shadow box held the medals Joe earned fighting Nazis in World War II, including the Bronze Star. The family had included a snapshot of young Joe in his Army uniform, rugged and handsome with a full head of black hair.

I remember staring at that picture and thinking: As men grow old, do they still see themselves as strong and able to protect their families? Joe Wido, 6-foot-2 and clear-minded at 82, hadn't lost any of his youthful bravery that night when he confronted an intruder in the house he and Bobbe had built a few decades earlier for retirement.

"I can take you on," Joe said to the young masked man seconds before a bullet struck his chest.

A few months after they buried Joe at the Florida National Cemetery, Bobbe invited me to her home in Timber Oaks. Detectives still searched for leads, and she figured some exposure in the newspaper might help. But she also wanted to tell me about Joe, her one and only love, her husband for 59 years who took care of every detail.

She was but 13 years old when she first fell for Joe, three years older. He had big muscles from hauling slabs of meat for the local butcher in Cliffside Park, N.J., "and every time I'd see him in the hallways at school I'd just sigh," she said.

One day on a frozen lake in a county park, they finally talked. He carried her ice skates home. "He thought I was older," Bobbe said, "because I was … well-developed. Then he found out I was only 13 and I didn't see him again." Joe went off to the Army and fought in Belgium and Germany with the 45th Infantry Division. When he returned home, Bobbe's age was no longer an issue. They would marry in 1949. Joe built a career as a butcher; Bobbe worked as a telephone operator and they raised Jude and Joanna, smart girls who both earned college degrees.

During our interview, Bobbe noted with a twinkle in her eye that her maiden name was Willin.

"I was Willin before I was married," she said. Here was this woman who had just suffered through unspeakable tragedy and yet somehow she managed a joke.

We sat for hours in her den, a few feet from the sliding glass doors where the intruder had entered around 2 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2008. She calmly detailed how the masked man appeared in the bedroom, shot Joe and then bound her with duct tape and left her on the floor next to her husband before neighbors rescued her 10 hours later.

I visited Bobbe a few times after that interview. She kidded that she had her own personal paperboy because I would hand-deliver copies of the Times. In Joe and Bobbe Wido, I saw much of my own parents — members of the Greatest Generation, loyal to each other over six decades. They traveled together, played games together, raised a family and enjoyed the Florida Dream, a retirement earned through hard work and sacrifice.

A bit more than a month after Bobbe Wido invited me into her house, on what would have been Joe's 83rd birthday, detectives arrested Francis Sicola, a 26-year-old career felon first arrested at age 11. The sheriff said Sicola broke into homes searching for drugs. He'll go to trial soon.

Bobbe had hoped to see that day, but without Joe her health declined and she moved into an assisted living facility. She died on Sept. 11. Jason Hatcher, the detective assigned to the case, visited her occasionally over the last two years. On Friday, he stood outside St. Michael's in the hot sun and reiterated a promise he made to her — to get justice.

Justice won't forget Bobbe and Joe Wido 09/18/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 18, 2010 3:13pm]
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