- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

NEW YORK CITY (AP) - Friends and relatives remembered a New York City real estate executive’s caring, exuberant spirit Monday as they mourned her death in last week’s Amtrak train crash, while the children of another victim fought through tears as they read letters to their late father at his funeral in New Jersey.

Laura Finamore, whose funeral was held at a church in Queens, and Robert Gildersleeve, whose funeral was in Holmdel, New Jersey, were among the eight people killed when a Washington-to-New York Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

Finamore, 47, of Manhattan, sent a text to her mother that she was boarding the train. When her family saw news of the crash around midnight Tuesday, they began calling hospitals searching for her. They were notified Wednesday that one of the victims matched her description, but dental records were needed to confirm it.

She had been returning to New York from a memorial service for a friend’s mother, a spokesman for her family said.

Peter Finamore, her brother, gave the eulogy and said the letters of her first name stood for “loving,” ”aunt,” ”unselfish,” ”real” and “awesome,” according to the New York Daily News.

“For you young women and girls, you should always remember your aunt and honor her memory and try to aspire to be strong like her,” he said.

Maria Pitsironis, a friend of Finamore’s, told WCBS-AM she was unforgettable.

“Full of love, very expressive in her words and her motions. She was really an angel for me,” she said.

Gildersleeve, 45, was a food safety executive who lived near Baltimore and formerly lived in New Jersey. His 16-year-old daughter, Ryan, said she loved her father “more than words” and that she felt lucky to have traveled the world with him, NJ.com reported.

His 13-year-old son, Marc, said writing the letter was the hardest thing he ever had to write, but that it was easy to remember the memories they made together.

“Thank you for teaching me how to be a leader and how to take care of others,” he said. “When I was little and you were leaving for a business trip, you would tell me that I was of the ‘man of the house.’ But I would always say that I’m the man ‘in’ the house. I will continue to be the man of the house and will take care of your girls.”

Finamore’s family said in a statement her smile and laugh will be missed.

“Laura’s smile could light up a room and her infectious laughter will be remembered by many for years to come,” they said. “She was always there when you needed her - with a hug, encouraging words or a pat on the back.”

Finamore was a senior account director at Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm. She went to Cardozo High School in Bayside and then George Washington University.

Finamore is survived by her parents and three brothers.

Besides his children, Gildersleeve is also survived by his wife of 18 years.

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