Gary and Michael Greisinger, father and son, pulled into the Elmer's Aquarium & Pet Center in Monroeville this morning. For $151.20, they walked away with 700 goldfish.
"They give us a break," said Gary Greisinger, 64. They know what the fish are for.
The Greisingers fit the four white boxes filled with goldfish into their car, then began their annual pilgrimage to Homewood Cemetery, continuing the vigil they've kept since 2003, when Catherine Helen Greisinger, Gary's daughter and Michael's sister, died at age 27 in a house fire in Pitcairn.
Ten years have passed, and still each year, on the anniversary of her death, they stock the pond of the cemetery where she lies buried.
"It's just a tradition," her father said.
A former WEDO DJ, Gary Greisinger channeled his devastation at the death of his only daughter, his oldest child, into a charity he formed in her name. Cathy G Charities, as it is called, has raised money for organizations including Make-A-Wish and the Animal Rescue League, continuing the legacy of a woman her family members say loved helping other people.
"We just wanted to keep that aspect of her alive," said Michael Greisinger, 28. Another way they remember her is with their goldfish tradition.
The Homewood Cemetery pond is where Gary Greisinger, born and raised in Point Breeze, visited as a child with his father. After he became a father himself, he brought his own children to visit the pond and feed the goldfish. Ten years ago, after he buried Cathy, he walked to the pond.
That time, there were no goldfish. So Mr. Greisinger decided he'd fill the pond with goldfish in his daughter's memory. He's there every May 17, adding life to the water.
Some people remember their loved ones by planting trees, said Michael Joyce, who has been superintendent of the cemetery for 35 years. Some designate memorial benches. The Greisingers' fish memorial is unique, he said.
"We like it," he said, describing families who visit with their children to see the fish. "It's definitely a nice little thing."
Gary and Michael Greisinger arrived at the cemetery just before noon to place the fish in the pond. Cathy's voice, singing "Me & Bobby McGee" and "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," played on repeat from Mr. Greisinger's car.
The week leading up to the anniversary of his daughter's death is a sad one each year, Mr. Greisinger said. But when they re-stock the pond, he feels calm
"This gives me a lot of peace," he said.
His sister, Kim, arrived with bread to feed to the fish. The Greisingers threw pieces into the pond, and Gary passed out slices to a few women who wandered over to watch. He plans to continue stocking the pond, in Cathy's memory, every year until his death. And at that point, his son will continue the tradition.
He imagines that his daughter knows what they do each year, and is able to say: "My family will never forget me."
"And we won't," he said.mobilehome - neigh_east
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/ First Published May 17, 2013 8:15 PM