GREENWICH— Three times a week, Jim Colica visits the grave of his wife of 23 years, Kathy Hanson, who died last year at 66 years old. Her monument at St. Mary-Putnam Cemetery has the inscription, “Forever united in love,” with two entwined hearts, and is surrounded by a bountiful array of colorful flowers that attract butterflies. Jim wanted her grave to represent the loving, caring and joyful woman she was and be an enduring tribute to their love.
In her memory, he had a statue of the Blessed Mother and the infant Jesus erected nearby with a bench for the benefit of all the families who have loved ones laid to rest there, so they can spend time in quiet reflection and prayer.
“Kathy’s gravesite reflects who she was for all to see—free flowing gardens, butterflies and joy,” he said. “She is the most beautiful person, inside and out, I have ever known.
here was no pretense, and she was forever young in spirit, a joy to all who met her…and they never forgot her smile and joyous nature.”
The retired senior vice president-Global Risk Management for GE Capital, Jim now serves as the vice chairman of the board of the newly formed corporation of Catholic Cemeteries of
he Diocese of Bridgeport LLC.
For him, Catholic cemeteries are meant to create an environment of prayer and personal memories of those who have gone before us, a peaceful place of repose to pay our respects to family and friends…just as it does for him and his late wife Kathy.
“I wanted her grave to represent who she was here on Earth, what she liked and how she was,” Jim says. “To me a cemetery is much more than a place where people are laid to rest. It is a lifelong representation of what those people were, and it should represent their spirit.”
Because he wants others to have the same experience, the statue of Mother Mary faces toward the entire area where Kathy’s grave is, for all the others buried there.
“The bench is for prayer and reflection for that section of the cemetery,” he says. “This was by design. It’s not just for Kathy nor me when I am next to her, but for everyone remembering their lost loved ones.”
Growing up in an Italian family in the BedfordStuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Jim says that paying respects to deceased family members and friends was a regular part of life for him as a boy. Many relatives were buried at St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, and later his parents were laid to rest at St. Charles/ Resurrection Cemeteries in Farmingdale, N.Y.
He believes that cemeteries can also create a compassionate community for people who are grieving lost loved ones, and very often he encounters others who share their memories with him.
“We are all there together, remembering people we love. And all those people interred there have a life story, a family and friends,” he says. “When you’re there, you want to feel that someone cared to memorialize them, as you look at the place where they’re laid to rest.”
Jim, who is a member of St. Mary Parish in Greenwich, was also responsible for the refurbishment of the St. MaryPutnam Cemetery office known as the “Cottage.” The 100-year-old structure resembles a castle, and Kathy became enamored with castles during a trip to Ireland they made to attend a wedding. Renovations to the historic building were done in her memory, and later this year there will be a dedication ceremony.
Throughout his life, and especially in retirement, Jim Colica has been committed to philanthropic work and helping others.
At the invitation of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, whom Jim calls his “Brooklyn buddy,” he joined the advisory board for Catholic Cemeteries in 2020, and this past July became vice chairman of the board of the newly formed Fairfield County Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Bridgeport LLC.
After a 27-year career as a senior officer at GE Capital, he retired in 2010 and has devoted his time and efforts to charitable causes and activities supporting mental health services for children, inner city education, services for blind and disabled veterans, disaster recovery efforts in the United States and abroad in addition to diocesan outreach services.
A graduate of Fordham University, he served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971 and later began his professional career as a CPA with Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. in New York.
For more than 20 years he has been on the board of the Child Guidance Center, a mental health agency for children and adolescents in lower Fairfield County. He has also served on the board of HEART 911, an organization of police officers, firefighters, construction trade workers and surviving families of those killed on September 11, 2001, which offers assistance in times of natural disasters.
The father of three children, Jim has five grandchildren. Reflecting on his life, he says, “From a very early time, there has been something in my DNA. I don’t know what it is, but I have been always trying to make a difference and help others in any way I can.”