The Annamarie Cochrane Rintala many people did not know

  • Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, a skilled amateur photographer, always had a camera handy on her many travels. A lover of animals and a paramedic who reached out to the homeless, she had an unfulfilled wish to swim with dolphins. Courtesy photo

  • Annamarie Cochrane Rintala Courtesy photo

  • Annamarie Cochrane Rintala Courtesy photo

  • An undated photo of Annamarie Cochrane Rintala and her daughter, Brianna. Courtesy photo

  • Courtesy photos of Annamarie Cochrane Rintala

  • At weddings, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala was known for improvising her own rendition of “Mambo Italiano.” Courtesy photo

@mjmajchrowicz
Published: 10/12/2016 7:01:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — During the murder trial, after the photos of the body were finally taken off the courtroom monitors, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala’s family looked around at the strangers — the spectators, the lawyers, the reporters — and couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for them.

That’s because they never got to meet Anna. Their Anna. The woman they called “Anna-banana.”

If they had known Anna, who was 37 when she died, they might have recalled her signature bear hugs or her boisterous laugh that could be heard from anywhere.

In court, the only parts of Anna’s life these strangers could piece together came from a handful of family photos — photos of her vacationing on the sunny beaches of Florida; photos of her embracing her then-toddler daughter, both beaming ear to ear; photos with her wife and their baby in front of the Christmas tree.

But these photos only provided glimpses, flashes of a life that ended abruptly on March 29, 2010. Her life as it was before she became a headline. Her life as it was before a jury decided that her wife, Cara, would spend the rest of her days in prison for killing the person she once vowed to love forever.

Most people know that, more than six years ago, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala was killed. What most people don’t know is how she lived.

To her family and those who knew her, Anna was not “that woman” found strangled to death at the bottom of her basement staircase. She was not “that woman” whose body waited for hours on the cold, cement floor before authorities finished processing the crime scene and transported her to the morgue.

To her family, Annamarie was the little girl who loved animals, especially dogs, and grew up with a Shih Tzu named Snuggles and a poodle named Charlie.

She was the middle-schooler who, at family gatherings, wore a bedazzled Michael Jackson glove while she strummed a guitar.

She was the teenager who attended Cathedral High School in Springfield, where she unabashedly offered her opinions to the disapproving nuns. She took a boy to her prom. He, too, eventually came out as gay.

She was the paramedic who, during cold months, would wrap blankets around the homeless she’d see curbside, and drive them to a shelter in her ambulance. She’d give away bag lunches to strangers in need on the street.

She was unflinchingly proud of her large Italian family and craved foods with pesto. But she was also part Irish, so on St. Patrick’s Day, she’d text loved ones the Irish blessing. For some, it was the last text they’d ever receive from Anna:

May the road rise up to meet you/

May the wind be always at your back/

May the sun shine warm upon your face/

The rains fall soft upon your fields/

And until we meet again/

May God hold you in the palm of his hand

She loved attention and going out of her way to make people laugh. Like at weddings, where she was known for commandeering the microphone and belting out “Mambo Italiano.”

Her motto was, “Live, laugh, love.”

Anna never went a day without washing her car. She loved to drive and travel. During the fall and winter, she would be jet-setting in warmer climates — usually to visit her Aunt Nancy in Florida — or book cruises. She wanted so badly to one day swim with dolphins.

She was a skilled amateur photographer and always had a camera in hand. She was fiercely loyal to Canon.

On one of her last visits to Florida, a dolphin appeared close to the shore. Anna swore it was a shark. Determined to capture a photo, she trekked into the ocean still wearing her cargo shorts. As she waded deeper into the water, she realized her phone was in her pocket. She laughed.

Anna believed that everything happened for a reason. She worshiped most Sundays at the Center Church in South Hadley where, after services, she chatted with friends while sipping coffee.

The day before she died, she told a group of women about her vacation. About how she and Cara were as committed as ever to ensuring their relationship lasted. About how the wives planned to renew their wedding vows.

She grew up wanting to help animals, but instead, decided on a career helping people.

During her last overnight shift as a paramedic, the night before she breathed her last breath, Anna helped treat a man who had just suffered a heart attack. He lived.

And she never did get to swim with a dolphin.

Information for this story was gathered via interviews with Annamarie’s maternal uncle and aunt Pasquale and Iris Martin, court documents and trial testimony.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.




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