In the fall of 2014, a home health aide discovered the body of her 62-year-old, Jewish patient, who lived alone in her suburban home. Bensalem police were summoned and declared the death to be of natural causes. The aide could not provide contact information for family or friends and advised that her patient had become a recluse, remaining inside her residence for the last years of her life. The body was held at the Bucks County Coroner’s office.
About a month later, the deceased’s 95-year-old father, residing in a nursing home in Philadelphia, called the police because he had not heard from his daughter. He learned that she had passed away and was advised to contact the coroner’s office to make funeral arrangements.
In February of 2015, a subordinate reminded Detective Jack Gohl of the Bensalem Township Police Department about the case. He attempted to contact the father and found that he, too, had passed away.
The administrator at the assisted living facility informed Detective Gohl that her resident’s last wish was to be buried with his wife and daughter. Detective Gohl began collecting information that led him to Harry Schwartz, a director at Goldstein’s Funeral Home, and discovered that when the wife died in 1991, her husband had purchased three plots at King David Cemetery in Bensalem. The funeral home agreed to facilitate transportation and burial of the remains of both father and daughter. To pay for the internment, the cemetery recommended that Detective Gohl contact Jewish Family and Children’s Service. They, in turn, called upon the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society. Eight hundred dollars in Jewish communal resources, a small discount from the cemetery and $500 from the Bensalem Police Benevolent Association insured that father and daughter would have a proper burial. Detective Gohl also obtained the services of a rabbi, who graciously agreed to perform a graveside service pro bono.
This poignantly tragic story evinces the compassion of many people of different faiths who came together to do the right thing. No publicity. Just quiet humanity.
Post script: After the burials, FHBS began to work on the cost of markers for the graves – an inscription on the double monument for the father and a footstone for the daughter. Jack Livesey, Sr., owner of the cemetery, came forward to offer to cover the expense of both, adding one more act of generosity and kindness to those of Detective Gohl and Harry Schwartz. We are grateful to have had all of them as partners in our efforts on behalf of this family.
Written by Judith Richards & Eileen Sklaroff