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Passenger: Linda Gronlund

Sunday, October 28, 2001

When she was 12, Linda Gronlund helped her father restore a car. As a high-school graduation present for her in 1972, the two built a maroon, fiberglass car on a Volkswagen chassis that looked like a Lamborghini but still had a VW engine. She called it the "Aardvark."

Linda Gronlund
dot.gifManager, environmental compliance, BMW North America, 46, Greenwood Lake, N.Y.
Mother, Doris; father, Gunnar; sister, Elsa Strong
After a brief business trip, she planned to celebrate her 47th birthday touring the California wine region with Joe DeLuca

Gronlund went to college to be an oceanographer, but it was her love of cars that ultimately determined her career path. Although her first job after graduating American University's law school in 1983 was with a private firm, she soon joined Volvo's North American office in northern New Jersey. In 1990 she moved to BMW North America, eventually becoming manager of environmental compliance in the company's engineering department.

It was her ideal job, combining her active outdoor lifestyle -- she was an accomplished sailor and scuba diver, car mechanic and gardener -- with her love for cars.

One project of Gronlund's had been participating in the development of industry-wide use of a new air-conditioner coolant for cars instead of freon. She also was instrumental in promoting the use of hydrogen-fueled cars.

"She really liked that she was making a real difference," said Elsa Strong, her younger sister.

Quietly intense, Gronlund would lock onto a goal and bull her way to it, whether it was graduating magna cum laude from Southampton College of Long Island University, earning certification as an emergency medical technician and a karate brown belt, or searching for the perfect car. When she couldn't find a BMW Z3 roadster in the chestnut brown color she wanted, Gronlund bought a different one and had it painted.

She joined the Sports Car Club of America in 1980, and liked it so much that she attended a racing school and tried her hand in races at tracks around the Northeast. Gronlund spent so much time with the club that she convinced her mother to volunteer at races.

Gronlund first met Joe DeLuca during Sports Car Club events. Although they had known each other as friends for 15 years, they had begun dating just a few months ago. On Sept. 11 they headed to the West Coast; a tour of the California vineyards would follow Gronlund's business trip.

The highlight would be celebrating Gronlund's 47th birthday two days later.

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