She was known as Miss Emma. 85-year-old Emma Gruber was a fixture at Doles Community Center in Mount Vernon, where her fellow seniors called her Miss Congeniality.
"She loved to say her doctors would ask her, what is your gift for life and she would say, 'It's my gift for gab, I just love to talk,'" said Joan Horton, a friend, "She loved to talk."
Friends like Joan Horton worried about Emma living alone in this rambling three-story home, but she was at the center every day without fail, so everyone kept tabs on her. Last Tuesday morning, friends got concerned when the center bus driver arrived at Emma's home to pick her up.
"He blew the horn as he normally does and there was no response, and he saw the front door ajar and an unidentified male said, 'She is not home,'" said Terrence Raynor, Mount Vernon Police Commissioner.
Mrs. Gruber's niece had been contacted when the elderly woman had not been seen all day.
Her grandson was let into the home by a key holder. He checked the upper floors of the home and left when he did not find her, authorities say.
A missing person's report was filed by her grandson. Cops were able to get into the house and found the elderly woman in the basement of the home on South 6th Avenue. Although the exact cause of death hasn't been determined, the police commissioner says she was murdered.
"She may have walked in on a burglary or she may have been home and heard a noise in her basement and responded to that sound and shortly after became the victim of a homicide," Raynor said.
"Unfortunately, someone decided to do this act, and we're all devastated by it," Horton said.
Mount Vernon police say that unidentified man the bus driver saw there in Miss Gruber's yard is clearly a person of interest, and added they are getting a lot of tips.