The Toronto Jewish community has been stunned into a mournful silence by the murder of beloved educator Rochelle Wise and her husband David (Donny) Pichosky in Florida last week.
Many turned inward with their grief as the couple was laid to rest on Monday at the Bathurst Lawn Memorial Park. However, one man, whose children went to the school where Wise had worked and who also knew Pichosky, spoke to The Forward after attending the funeral and burial, calling the murder “a huge shock and a double tragedy.”
The father said he planned on generally acceding to the request from the Bialik Hebrew Day School, where Wise was Preschool Vice Principal for four years before recently retiring, to avoid speaking to the media out of respect for the family of the deceased. “However, I will say that nobody has anything but wonderful things to say about Rochelle,” he shared. “She was a fantastic educator and a warm person. We all held her in high regard. We wished she had stayed at Bialik longer, but understood her wanting to retire and enjoy life with Donny.”
Wise, 66, who had founded and run the popular Crestwood Valley Day Camp for many years before working at Bialik, was discovered by concerned neighbors dead alongside her husband, 71, in their Hallandale Beach, Florida townhouse. The retirees were “snowbirds,” Canadians who spend up to half the year in Florida to escape the cold northern winters.
Capt. Sonia Quinones of the Hallandale Beach Police Department informed The Forward by email that the investigation into the double homicide is ongoing. Neither a motive nor a cause of death has been determined.
“We are awaiting the Medical Examiner’s report for determination of the cause of death. Motive is still unknown at this time,” she wrote.
“The entire Bialik family is distraught by the tragic loss of our retired Preschool Vice Principal, 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,” announced Shana Harris, Bialik’s head of school, in a press release.
Eric Shendelman and Bobby Freeman, current directors of Crestwood Valley Day Camp, called Wise “a selfless individual who took a genuine interest in the lives of everyone she came across,” in a letter they sent out upon hearing the tragic news. “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 kids, an example to day camp Directors across Toronto, and an amazing friend to those of us at Crestwood Valley,” their message continued.
Another Bialik father, who is also an alumnus of the school himself, spoke with The Forward. He recalled that one of his sons was in the preschool during Wise’s tenure. “She touched the life of every student she knew in a very positive way, and she was a lovely woman who will be dearly missed,” he said. “It’s so damned sad.”