September 16, 2014

Pochiba story tough assignment for reporter

Jul 11

Main Photo
George Pochiba's daughter, Neva, gives a hug to O-R's Francesca Sacco.

As journalists, we're taught to report the facts and make observations. We're taught to remove ourselves from the situation. Be impartial.

But I found that an impossible task while handling my most recent assignment.

On Wednesday, a North Bethlehem farmer found a body while cutting hay in her fields along Brady Road. The discovery, while shocking, has provided closure and comfort for a local family and their countless supporters.

George Pochiba, who was 90 and had dementia, wandered away from his Crescent Road home on June 10. State police, volunteers, family, neighbors and friends searched endlessly without results.

I covered the story from the beginning. At first, some thought he had gotten into a vehicle and headed to his old stomping grounds in the Houston/Bridgeville area. But as the days turned into weeks, one couldn't help but wonder where he was and know the worst was very plausible.

I stayed in contact with his daughter through the ordeal, checking in for updates and to write additional stories. When my editor said they found a body, I couldn't help but assume it was George.

I went to the scene and listened as the coroner briefed me and other members of the media. My heart sank when we were told it was believed to be him. Then, I drove to his home to talk to his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Neva. It's the least favorite part of my job, approaching a family after they have just received devastating news. I feel like a vulture.

As I approached the door with Cara Sapida, from WPXI, George's daughter saw me. She gave a weak smile and summoned us in.

We gave our condolences, and she graciously agreed to talk to us. She understood, or at least I hope, how this business works.

She wasn't mad at us, at our pestering. She seemed at ease for the first time since I met her.

I'm not used to the situation that unfolded that day. She was gracious and helpful. I'm used to people yelling at me or ordering me away, not opening their arms for an embrace.

So needless to say, I was a caught a little off-guard when she hugged me. Looking back, I should have hugged her tighter.

Too many people suffer from this horrible disease. George's unfortunate end could happen to any one of them.

Neva has been wonderful throughout, and continues to be. She has agreed to sit down with me for a story that will accompany this series.

Please look for it.

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The Observer-Reporter's latest staff series will feature Alzheimer's and dementia. Each month, we will concentrate on different aspects of the disease, from what it is, who is affected, resources, and more. This powerful series will go on for the conceivable future.