HILLSBOROUGH: Empty chair for Paige Aiello at college graduation

Student, tennis team captain earned degree from The College of New Jersey

By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
   A front-row chair will be left empty at today’s graduation ceremonies at the College of New Jersey for Paige Aiello, a Hillsborough resident and captain of the college tennis team.
   Ms. Aiello’s body was recovered Wednesday, May 8, in the Hudson River in New York City, after she had been missing since April 9, when she was last seen at her family’s home in Hillsborough.
   Stacy Schuster, associate vice president for college relations, said Ms. Aiello will be remembered in remarks at both the ceremony for her department, Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as in the entire college program in Lions Stadium.
   Ms. Aiello was to be remembered in remarks by college President R. Barbara Gitenstein and the senior class president, Alaina Sprinsted. Ms. Aiello completed her academic requirements, with honors, and will be awarded her rightful degree in communication studies, Ms. Schuster said.
   Funeral services have been scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m. in the Unitarian Church in Summit at 4 Waldron Ave., followed by burial at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield.
   Visitation hours are scheduled from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, May 20, at Hillsborough Funeral Home, 796 Route 206.
   ”This is a moment in life that there are simply no words to truly describe this incredible young woman,” said the obituary from the family. “A measure of a person is the effect and impact they had on others. Paige was loved by all and had a positive effect on everyone she touched. Paige was caring, honest, trustworthy and revered by her friends, classmates and teammates. She was a selfless individual who put the needs of others before her own.”
   The identification was made by the New York City Medical Examiner’s office and was assisted by dental records provided by the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit and township police.
   According to the medical examiner’s office, the official cause of death is drowning and suicide.
   In a statement following the identification, the Aiello family thanked everyone who played a part in helping to search for Ms. Aiello.
   ”As each member of our family carries unfathomable grief and pain, we are comforted by the kindness that has been demonstrated through all of your thoughts and prayers,” the Aiello family statement read. “Paige would be proud to know that through this horrible tragedy, we have met so many wonderful, selfless strangers who have made a difference in raising our spirits over the last several weeks.”
   In a statement, TCNJ President Gitenstein expressed her sadness.
   ”This is devastating news for our campus community, its magnitude compounded as we reach the end of the academic year,” Ms. Gitenstein said. “Please join me in continuing to keep Paige, her family, and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers as we all endure this tragic resolution.”
   Ms. Aiello was last seen at her family’s home in Hillsborough around 1 p.m. on April 9. Her father reported his daughter missing to the Hillsborough Police Department at about 7:45 p.m. A passer-by found Ms. Aiello’s purse, cell phone and keys on the south walkway of the upper level of the George Washington Bridge and contacted her parents, who then contacted Hillsborough police around 8:30 p.m.
   Hillsborough detectives notified the New York Police Department and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey about the missing person investigation and at 11:24 p.m. law enforcement agencies began a search for Ms. Aiello in the Hudson River in the vicinity of the George Washington Bridge.
   The next day, Mrs. Aiello’s vehicle was located at a parking garage on Somerset Street near the New Brunswick train station at about 10:19 p.m. April 10.