I saw Linda Rios-Neuby two days before her husband shot and killed her, and then took his own life. I locked eyes with her in the corner of the La Colombe next to City Hall, but I didn't say hello or give her a hug, as I'd done countless times when I saw her and her twin girls at the ShopRite.
Linda was crying; she looked as if she should've taken a day off. She wasn't alone, so I kept walking to City Hall, where she worked as director of human resources for City Council.
I worked with Linda at City Council from 2002 to 2010. I was a constituent service aide for the late, great Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski, and Linda worked in City Council President Anna C. Verna's office. A bunch of us started working at City Hall together at the same time. Even though our bosses were sometimes friends and sometimes enemies, Council staffers stuck together and had epic end-of-Council-session happy hours.
Roaming the corridors of City Hall last week, I visited my former coworkers. It's my tradition to bring Stock's famous pound cake to City Hall when I visit, a tip of the hat to the legislation I helped pass to protect Philly bakeries from the trans-fat ban sanctions.
It was a trip down memory lane, but it was also humbling and inspiring to see that, yes, those fresh-faced kids right out of college are now the staffers running the show (the people we used to roll our eyes at 15 years ago).
Sharon Vaughan was an aide to Marian Tasco. She's now the boss lady of the 42nd Democratic Ward and chief of staff for Councilman Derek Green (a former Council staffer, too), and throws the best fish fry fundraisers in the city. Holly Maher, who worked for Councilman Jack Kelly — she led the fight to make Philly a no-kill shelter city for stray animals — is now in Councilman Bill Greenlee's office and still pushing for legislation to protect our animals.
I passed by other offices where friends left public service in the Council offices and went out on their own. John Hawkins and Andrew Zalenski are now big-time lobbyists. Lawyers Darwin Beauvis and Lauren Vidas left City Hall, and I swore they would be scooped up by another city, but they stayed in Philly and made it better. I started getting coffee for Councilwoman Krajewski. Now, I'm running for state representative in my 177th District of the River Wards and Northeast Philly.
I made my way to Linda's office and smiled at her promotion. Here's a woman who started out as a summer intern in City Hall. She learned as she worked and she did it all: finding a lost paycheck, checking late time sheets, picking your health insurance, calculating your sick days, phoning you to tell you to get your council person to caucus now, or sending that glorious email on a Friday before a holiday notifying us that the City Hall offices would close at 3 p.m.
I grabbed a Post-It and scribbled her a note, leaving her two pieces of pound cake and hoping my friend would have a better day after seeing her in distress.
"Hey Linda, you've been Patty-Caked! Give this to your two babies with a cold glass of milk! XOXO, PP"
On Friday morning, around 7:30 a.m., Linda Rios-Neuby was at home in Holmesburg when her estranged husband, Haywood Neuby, entered the house and started fighting with her as their 4-year-old twin daughters slept. The babysitter left out the back door with the girls. Philadelphia police found Linda dead in her bathroom, with three gunshot wounds. Neuby then turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.
As I sit here sobbing and wishing I would've gone to Linda that day when I saw her crying, for the rest of my life I will second-guess myself and replay the last time I saw her alive. I hope her girls remember the night their mom came home with two delicious pieces of pound cake and poured them some milk. I hope that's the vision they have of their mommy, who was taken way too soon, and who managed City Council staffers and offices and never let on that she was in an abusive relationship.
If Linda Rios-Neuby, a woman who worked with 17 of the most powerful people in Philadelphia and the mayor, suffered in silence and couldn't ask for help, where does that leave all the others?
That will forever be a hard piece of cake to swallow.
Patty-Pat Kozlowski, a Republican candidate for state representative in November, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.