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AUNT INSPIRES MARATHON TRIBUTE

Barbara "Bo" Lynn Hopkins Giannasca gave her life for the job she loved.

Giannasca, a graduate of Pioneer Central High School, died as a flight attendant in the American Airlines crash in a quiet Queens neighborhood in 2001. Her ashes have recently been returned to her hometown of Arcade.

To honor her life, her nephew from Arcade, Darrin Hopkins, a processing manager at Steuben Foods in Elma, will run the more than 26-mile New York City Marathon next Sunday. He'll spend today, Halloween, focusing on that run.

"Bo was known for her generosity of spirit to friends, family, and kindness to strangers," he said.

Her flight, No. 587 out of JFK International Airport, crashed shortly after takeoff, killing 265 people in November 2001.

A month before the crash, she completed a three-day walk to raise money for a breast cancer crusade.

"She trained vigorously and worked diligently at fund raising," said her nephew, 38.

The total raised now stands at more than $26,000 through her efforts. Giannasca had lost both her mother and sister-in-law to breast cancer.

"She walked not only in memory of them but also in memory of the American Airlines flight crew who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001," her nephew said. "She proudly wore a ribbon for each crew member, pinned to her pink shirt with pictures of both her mother and sister-in-law printed on it."

Giannasca had told her friends that flying was her destiny.

"I anxiously awaited being hired by an airline," she told them in a letter before the crash. "Finally, after nine initial interviews by several carriers -- with no call backs -- I was hired by American Airlines. I had always felt I was destined for AA since I took my first flight on them at the age of 5 months."

During the morning of Nov. 12, 2001, Darrin Hopkins' co-workers started buzzing about news of the American Airlines crash, thinking it might have been terrorist-related, a cause since dismissed. The Airbus hit a neighborhood after its tail broke off.

As details of the accident were revealed, Hopkins called home to get the bad news.

"We were pretty shocked, there are so many flights day in and day out, and you never think this could happen," he says.

He shared a love of athletics with his aunt.

"Training is a reflective time for me," he said "The marathon is my way of paying tribute to her. Fund raising was important in her life."

Although she didn't have children of her own, Giannasca became a mother figure to many and adored her godchild, all of her nieces, and nephews such as Darrin Hopkins.

"She always took a great interest," he recalls. "She was a super aunt."

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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