Carnegie Fund honors heroism of Mt. Pleasant woman, others
In honoring the memory of a Mt. Pleasant woman, a plaque at the Arnold Palmer Cancer Pavilion is meant to remind people of the heroism it takes to face any danger, said Rob Firment, marketing and communications director for Excela Health.
The late Stacey Feiling worked for three years at the cancer treatment center in Unity.
“Here at the Palmer Cancer Pavilion, Stacey observed similar bravery as those in treatment faced down a brutal attacker that we know as cancer,” he said. “May this plaque ... serve to be encouragement to patients, staff and visitors so that they may persevere.”
A ceremony was held Thursday to dedicate the conference room plaque and honor Feiling with a Carnegie Hero Fund award.
On June 1, 2010, Feiling, 42, was shot and killed on her way home from work along Route 981 in the village of Calumet in Mt. Pleasant Township as she was trying to help Janet Piper, who had been shot by her husband, Raymond Piper.
Mark Garsteck and John E. Swartz were honored with 3-inch bronze Carnegie Hero Fund medals for trying to stop Piper, aid Feiling and keep others out of harm's way.
“I was amazed that I would receive such an award; I would never have expected anything like that,” Garsteck said.
Between 800 and 900 people from the United States and Canada are nominated for the award every year, but only about 100 of those are chosen by the Carnegie Hero Fund, which was begun by Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1904.
Each selected individual “must be a civilian who voluntarily risks his or her life to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the life of another person,” according to its mission.
Tony Novak of Unity said as soon as he heard the news of the shooting, he believed Feiling needed to be recognized for her courage and nominated her for the award.
“Her memory is always going to be intact with her heroic efforts that afternoon,” said Novak, who led an invocation for about 50 people gathered for the ceremony in the pavilion's lobby.
Carnegie Hero Fund Executive Director Walter Rutkowski and board member Joseph Walton presented the medals to Garsteck; Feiling's parents, Donna and Earl Rice; her husband, Ron Feiling; and Swartz's wife, JoAnn and 17-year-old son John Jr., who accepted the award on his behalf.
“He doesn't feel like he's a hero,” said JoAnn Swartz of her husband.
The tragedy unfolded when Garsteck, 55, heard gunfire and saw Piper chasing his wounded wife and daughter through the back yard. They fled to the house next door, where Swartz, 47, lived.
Swartz tried to get into his truck to get help when Piper fired at him and he continued on to a nearby garage to call the police.
Meanwhile, Garsteck helped two boys to safety in Piper's backyard.
When Feiling stopped her car and Janet Piper tried to climb in the passenger seat, Raymond Piper, armed with a rifle and handgun, opened the driver door and shot Feiling in the face.
Swartz saw the shooting and parked his truck to block oncoming traffic. During the ordeal, Piper fired at both men, but missed, before he was subdued by police.
Piper, 39, pleaded guilty in October 2011 to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in a state prison. He is at SCI LaBelle in Fayette County.
Janet Piper and her 16-year-old daughter KarenAnne, who was also shot, recovered from their wounds, according to the hero fund.
Donna Rice said she doesn't understand why things happened the way they did that day, but is grateful her daughter's characteristic selflessness will be remembered.
“I thank them (the ceremony organizers) from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “It's been really hard for us, but at least they won't forget.”
While the Swartz family still lives next door to where the shooting occurred, Ron Feiling and Garsteck have moved to try and escape the constant reminder of that spring evening.
Garsteck said he felt indebted for his life to Swartz.
“I think there's a long overdue thank you coming to John,” he said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or email@example.com.