UPDATED — A standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 people attended funeral services Monday for a Toronto couple found dead last week in their Hallandale Beach, Fla., condominium.
Police in Florida are investigating the deaths of David (Donny) Pichosky, 71, and his wife Rochelle Wise, 66, as a double homicide.
Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, spiritual leader of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, said at the double funeral at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel, “We are overwhelmed by tragedy, and we are beset with questions.”
Earlier in the day, Capt. Sonia Quinones, a spokesperson for the Hallandale Beach Police, said that police were awaiting the medical examiner’s report to determine the cause of death and that motive was still unknown.
Wise’s son, Jamie, said in a eulogy that he was “confused, frozen, angry, shocked and broken… searching for information, answers, resolution and justice. These questions won’t stop, and shouldn’t stop, until justice is found.”
He recalled his mother’s gift for connecting with people and her ability to “inspire, teach, and encourage people to dream… to see the potential within them.”
Wise was a preschool administrator at Bialik Hebrew Day School and a founding director of Crestwood Valley Day Camp.
Pichosky, her husband of four years, was a retired businessman who volunteered with seniors at Baycrest, and had spent at least 20 years wintering in Florida.
Jamie Wise said his mother had “truly found her bashert” in Pichosky, whom he recalled as kind and gentle.
Her son read from a note his mother had left for him and his sister, which he said was “not meant to be read for many years.”
She told them, “Please remember what I taught you about love and kindness, respect for others, and your responsibility to the Jewish community. Remember to acknowledge daily the gifts and blessings God has given you.”
Wise’s daughter, Dina Shapiro, recalled her mother as an “incredible, loving, formidable, charitable woman” who was devoted to her family and her work.
As well, she said, her mother began to write books with Shapiro’s daughter once she learned to read. Shapiro also read a recent children’s book that Wise and Pichosky collaborated on.
“They brought so much joy to each other… and to all who spent time with them,” she said.
Pichosky’s daughter, Sari Rosenblum, recalled a loving father who made lunch for her every day when she worked around the corner from him at her first job.
A widower when he met Wise, Pichosky had known his first wife, Sandra, from the time he was 12 years old. They were married 46 years. Religion became “an essential part” of Pichosky’s life after he kept a promise to God to become observant if he survived brain surgery in his late 20s, Rosenblum said.
A concerned neighbour found the couple Jan. 10 after they didn’t show up for lunch the previous day and failed to answer repeated phone calls.
In Toronto, Bialik issued a statement Jan. 11 saying that the “entire Bialik family is distraught by the tragic loss of Rochelle Wise and her beloved husband, Donny Pichosky. Rochelle was an adored member of the community and respected as an outstanding educator and woman of great character and kind spirit.”
In Florida, Wise volunteered at a Hebrew day school in Hallandale, helping children with learning problems. She also was an active member of Na’amat, the Jewish women’s organization.
Bobby Freeman, a co-director of Crestwood, wrote in an online condolence message that he came to know Wise as “a unique woman, with strength of character, foresight, and the ability to lead with love.”
A statement from the camp said that Wise “was a selfless individual who took a genuine interest in the lives of everyone she came across. As the director of Crestwood Valley Day Camp from 1990 until her retirement in 2005, Rochelle dedicated herself to the personal growth and development of every child and staff member in her care, and to creating summer memories that would last a lifetime. With limitless energy, unwavering courage and a passion for children, she was an inspiration to a generation of kids, an example to day camp directors across Toronto, and an amazing friend to those of us at Crestwood Valley.”
A bereavement notice sent to Shaarei Shomayim members said that Wise and Pichosky “were important longtime members of our community along with their children and grandchildren. They were both selfless individuals who took a genuine interest in the lives of everyone they came across.”
With files from JTA