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updated: 12/23/2012 6:24 AM

Slain Woodridge woman honored with tow truck procession

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  • Tow trucks travel west on 75th Street heading from a Downers Grove funeral home to a Lombard crematory Saturday during a procession honoring Alyssa Van Meter of Woodridge, who was slain last week.

       Tow trucks travel west on 75th Street heading from a Downers Grove funeral home to a Lombard crematory Saturday during a procession honoring Alyssa Van Meter of Woodridge, who was slain last week.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Alyssa Van Meter

      Alyssa Van Meter

 
 

A procession of more than 150 tow trucks made a fitting tribute to Alyssa Van Meter as they trekked from a Downers Grove funeral home to a Lombard crematory, honoring the Woodridge tow truck driver who her ex-boyfriend is accused of killing.

"She deserves nothing less than this," said Jessica Baker, a fellow driver at O'Hare Towing. "Anyone who encounters this, I think will be touched."

Authorities allege Van Meter's 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, 25, was remembered Saturday by her tow truck driving co-workers for being feisty, full of life, outgoing and dependable.

"She accepted every challenge and never backed down from it," Baker said before lowering the flatbed of her pink tow truck and helping load Van Meter's casket onto it.

The unusual procession created a spectacle on 75th Street even before beginning the journey north to lay Van Meter -- who was one of three female drivers employed by O'Hare Towing -- to rest.

Leading the line was Baker's pink truck, followed by a smaller O'Hare vehicle -- one wrapped with a design of the Chicago skyline and assigned to Van Meter herself.

"She would have loved this," said fellow tow-truck driver Jen Valuch. "She's gonna be a legend."

Within the tight-knit and heavily male field of towing, O'Hare Towing owner Bill Gratzianna said he always makes room for capable women drivers who want to enter the business and use their towing power to help people.

"She chose this profession, and she really made something of herself," Gratzianna said.

A certified and confident tow truck driver, Gratzianna said Van Meter drew satisfaction from defying gender norms and helping men -- by changing their flat tires or winching their vehicles out of ditches.

"We worked a lot of accidents together," Baker said. "We surprised a lot of police officers."

Van Meter's passion for her profession and helping people in a bind made her a role model who will be sorely missed, co-workers said.

"She was really someone a girl could look up to," Valuch said. "Even though she was younger than me, I looked up to her."

Joining O'Hare Towing employees in the procession were drivers from companies such as Action Towing of Downers Grove, Suburban Towing of Elk Grove Village and Fire Towing of Westmont.

"A lot of these operators didn't know her, but we share a common bond," Gratzianna said.

Driving west on 75th Street, then north on Route 53 to North Avenue on the way to Van Meter's Lombard destination, the tow truck procession caught the eyes of drivers in several suburbs.

"We didn't do it to impress anyone," Gratzianna said. "We did it more for Alyssa and her life and more of an honor to her."

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