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Hit-run victims are laid to rest

By DUANE BOURNE
Published November 15, 2003

[Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
Mourners leave St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church after the funeral Mass for Benjamin and Ruth Szulwach on Friday morning in Spring Hill. The 79-year-old couple had finished a dinner to honor veterans and were crossing U.S. 41 when they were struck and killed Monday evening. He was a Purple Heart recipient.

SPRING HILL - He married the couple eight years ago. And in what seemed to be a fitting tribute to their lives together, the Rev. Joseph Szulwach bid his father and stepmother farewell at their funeral Mass.

The Laurence Harbor, N.J., priest and other mourners came to St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on Friday to pay their respects to Benjamin and Ruth Szulwach, both 79, victims of a hit-and-run driver on a busy Brooksville highway four days before. Police have made no arrests in the case.

While family members huddled in wooden pews, occasionally dabbing their eyes and exchanging gentle embraces, Joseph Szulwach, Benjamin's son, stood strong but visibly moved.

He spoke not from anger or resentment, but faith. In death, he reiterated several times throughout his homily, there is life.

"To have faith is to trust," said Szulwach, smiling, his head tilted slightly.

Ruth Szulwach was buried at Grace Memorial Gardens in Hudson. Her husband, whom she met while they were both working at Arby's, will be buried at St. John's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Queens, N.Y.

On Monday evening, Benjamin Szulwach, a recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in World War II, and his wife were crossing U.S. 41 at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when they were struck.

Authorities said the Spring Hill couple had just left a complimentary pre-Veterans Day dinner at Golden Corral and were walking to their car at the Arby's across the road when the accident occurred.

Brooksville Sgt. Marvin Maeder said Friday that authorities are still looking for the driver of the car, which was described as a white or light-colored sedan with damage to its bumper, hood and windshield.

Investigators also want to talk to the driver of a white Chevrolet Celebrity that was seen leaving the area. Investigators are not sure if that driver, identified as a man in his early 20s, was involved in the hit-and-run, police Chief Ed Tincher said Thursday. That car didn't appear to be damaged.

A local business owner has donated a $500 reward to the Brooksville Police Department to urge people to come forward with any information leading to an arrest.

"We have got no solid leads yet," Maeder said.

- Duane Bourne can be reached at 352 754-6114 or at dbourne@sptimes.com

[Last modified November 15, 2003, 01:34:29]


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