Slain Woodridge woman loved to help others
Ex-boyfriend accused of killing Alyssa Van Meter
Alyssa Van Meter didn't need a prince to rescue her.
As one of only three female drivers with O'Hare Towing, the 25-year-old -- who stood a mere 5 feet tall -- was usually the person who showed up to save the day.
Van Meter was slain Saturday night. Authorities allege her ex-boyfriend Adam Belmont climbed the balcony of her second-floor Woodridge apartment and stabbed her to death just a week after they broke off a long-standing relationship.
Belmont, 23, of Northlake, is being held without bail. Authorities say he confessed to the crime.
Van Meter's extended towing family will help honor her Saturday with a processional of more than 200 tow trucks from a Downers Grove funeral home to a crematorium in Lombard. Her casket will ride on the back of an O'Hare Towing flatbed truck. Her company-issued tow truck will follow immediately behind.
It's an unofficial show of support for their employee of three years, who had quickly established herself in the male-dominated and close-knit profession and within the heart of O'Hare Towing, said company President Bill Gratzianna.
"I could tell that she was molded from the towing cloth, so to speak," Gratzianna said.
"If you truly love being in the towing business and want to be in the business, you really have to like helping people. And she did."
In fact, Van Meter had just returned from a trip to help Hurricane Sandy victims shortly before her death. She worked for 21 days straight in Brooklyn and Long Island towing storm-damaged vehicles as part of a contract the O'Hare Towing has to aid insurance companies during times of disaster.
She also volunteered in the Tow Trucks for Tots drive to benefit Toys for Tots and volunteered for other out-of-state missions.
Gratzianna, a father of four daughters, had a soft spot for Van Meter.
"Anytime that I'm fortunate and blessed enough to have a female involved in a rough-and-tumble, black-and-blue business such as the towing business, I go out of my way to make that happen," he said. "Not only am I the boss and the leader of the whole deal, but at some point I take on a leadership and big-brother type of role, and I'm proud of it."
Gratzianna loved hearing Alyssa tell a story about how a big, burly man would call for help and then express disbelief when she would pull up and jump down from the tow truck. And then she'd be the one to save his day.
"It's kind of funny when the roles are reversed, and it's actually the damsel who is the one who helps the knight get his car back on the road," he said. "She got a strong sense of accomplishment from that, and I got a lot of entertainment from that as well. She was great at what she did. Very, very good."
Van Meter consulted Gratzianna about major decisions in her life -- like getting braces. When she wanted to wear black snow pants that fit better than the bright yellow safety pants made for men, he sent her off to find more flattering -- and safer -- winter gear on his dime.
"We had the kind of relationship that I could count on her and she could count on me," he said.
The industry also brought her into the life of Belmont, who was also a tow-truck driver for O'Hare Towing when she first started with the company. He had since moved on, Gratzianna said.
Gratzianna said he became a little concerned when Van Meter asked to store her motorcycle at the business for fear Belmont might try to vandalize it.
The company is in the process of providing grief counselors for employees, who include Van Meter's brother Erik, 30, who shared an apartment with her and was the one to discover her body.
O'Hare Towing employees have helped make funeral arrangements and set up a fund to offset funeral expenses at Wells Fargo banks in the names of Erik and Alyssa Van Meter.
Visitation will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at Hallowell and James Funeral Home, 301 75th St. in Downers Grove. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Saturday followed by a processional to Trisons Crematory Services in Lombard.
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