Vandergrift family regroups from loss of business, patriarch
By Julie E. Martin
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 11:23 p.m.
Editor's note: Beginning today,the Valley News Dispatch will update some of the stories we covered in 2012. The series, “Whatever happened to...?” will appear through the end of the year.
In the months following a suspected arson that gutted Vandergrift's Kochka Towing and Car Care Service, the Kochka family suffered another loss, that of longtime owner and patriarch, Paul Kochka.
The Vandergrift resident, who led the family business for more than 50 years, died on Dec. 11. According to family, the cause of death was a heart attack. Some, like Kochka's granddaughter, Lyndsey Bigley, feel the fire was a contributing factor.
“It had to do with all this, the stress,” she said.
About a week after the funeral, flowers and memorials amassed in the parking lot of the towing business that sits across from the Vandergrift Bridge, on the corner of Sherman and Farragut avenues.
Rebuilding continued inside.
Based on what officials told the family, the blaze, which occurred in the early hours of Sept. 23, was started in one of four garage bays. Money was stolen from the business, as well, said Kochka's wife, Joyce Kochka.
While rebuilding may seem even more of a challenge now, family members anticipate Kochka's will reopen as soon as mid-January. Bigley, who works at the family business, describes the reconstruction as one that involves “every single room.”
“It's hard when a place was completely gutted,” she said. “We had to re-do everything.”
“They've pretty much taken us down to nothing, and we've built from the ground up. Everybody's been working real hard to get us back open.”
“Everybody knows how strong of a family we are and we wanted to get it open as quickly as possible to give back to the community,” she added. “Nobody really questioned us, we're pretty tough.”
According to Joyce Kochka, customers are looking forward to the reopening.
“It's really going to be nice. It's really going to be different,” she said.
With one loss and then another, customers, neighbors and friends have reached out to support the family.
“A lot of the community had come together during our time of need then, and now, with the passing of my grandfather,” Bigley said.
“We've had a lot of support.”
The Kochkas hope someone, perhaps in the community, can help in another way: by providing any information possible about the suspected arson.
The family plans to advertise a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever started the fire, Joyce Kochka said.
“We haven't found justice yet,” Bigley said. “And my pap had said before he passed that they took his baby, they took his heart and he'd never see it opened again.”
“It's hard, because they took his heart. I just want justice.”
Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Printing delinquent tax list pays off for Highlands
- Fields set for Alle-Kiski primary elections on May 20
- Obama budget puts more money into nuclear cleanup, not locks and dams
- Rural Ridge residents question NRG’s plans for landfill
- Allegheny Valley to decide on Colfax roof at March 18 meeting
- Fear of building collapse closes Tarentum road
- Classes cancelled Wednesday at Acmetonia Primary School
- Charges against police chief have Springdale mayor crying foul
- Oakmont Bakery owner eyes expansion
- Oakmont Historical Society makes new home in time for 125th celebration
- Borough residents invited to help Celebrate Oakmont 125