Marie Buck didn't just run a corner store in South Philadelphia for 44 years, she created a cornerstone for her community.

On Friday, that community came out for her funeral, to honor the generous grocer who was slain at her store on Christmas Eve.

The hundreds of mourners who packed the pews at St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Church on the 700 block of Montrose Street were a testament to how many people Buck, 81, touched during her life.

"I'm sure each and every one of you today could tell us a story about Marie and your marvelous relationship with her," the officiant, the Rev. Nick Martorano, said. "She was a very important part of the community in which she lived, in which she served, and in which she loved."

Buck was shot 11 times shortly before 9 a.m. Dec. 24 at Marie's Grocery on Sixth Street near Titan Street. On Thursday, police arrested Maurice Green, 31, and charged him with Buck's murder.

Police said Green had gone to the store to kill Buck's grandson, who he thought had stolen an expensive chain from him. But the grandson never showed up for his shift; Buck was working in his place.

When Green saw Buck, police said, he made a conscious decision to shoot her instead.

Speaking at her funeral, Martorano called Buck's slaying a "tragedy" and acknowledged the anger, frustration, and confusion over her death.

"Why? Why this way? Why now?" he said. "Will there be an answer? In some ways, yes, but in other ways there will never be an answer."

Buck was remembered for her fun-loving nature, her colorful language, her commitment to her faith and family, and the kindness she showed to others.

She kept a book with running tabs for customers, Martorano said.

"She fulfilled people's needs and trusted them to pay when they could," he said.

Following Communion, a soloist in the choir loft, where Buck once sang as a member of the church choir, performed a haunting rendition of "Ave Maria" that left few dry eyes.

After the funeral, mourners Rita Punzo, 76, who sang with Buck in the choir, and Paul Kleschick, 40, who served as the choir's organist for 12 years, said Buck was "a pistol" with spirit - and sometimes, with spirits.

"On Christmas Eve one year she brought peach schnapps to the choir," Punzo said. "She loved life and she loved a lot."

Following the service, Buck's funeral procession drove by her corner store, where a memorial of flowers, signs and candles continues to grow.

A police officer who sat outside the store in a patrol car declined to give her name but said she had known Buck since she was a little girl. She recalled the kindness Buck showed her and her friend when they were children and didn't have enough food stamps, and Buck gave them a sandwich anyway.

Long after the funeral was over and the motorcade had passed, Curtisa Lane, 42, who has lived her whole life near Buck's store, brought two balloons to tie to the store's railing.

Lane said she couldn't bring herself to attend the funeral, or even to walk by the store - until Friday.

"I think I was able to come today because the family got the justice they needed," she said.

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