Vandergrift family regroups from loss of business, patriarch
By Julie E. Martin
Published: Tuesday, December 25, 2012, 11:23 p.m.
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
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.
- Farmers and Merchants Bank moves into Freeport
- Deer’s visit could force changes at Apollo-Ridge High School
- Apollo-Ridge, teachers lock up 5-year contract
- No tax hike for Allegheny Valley schools
- Man dead after being struck by an SUV in Fawn
- United Way honors efforts of ‘quiet cheerleader’
- Golf course employee killed in Bell Township mower accident
- Remember When: A look at the Valley’s past in the language of the times
- Test confirms fox that bit Kiski Township boy had rabies
- Fashion show to benefit Habitat for Humanity
- Newly ordained Father Mark Pattock comes home to Natrona
You must be signed in to add comments
To comment, click the Sign in or sign up at the very top of this page.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.