TORONTO – A popular former Toronto day camp director and her husband, who were spending the winter in Florida, were killed in a double homicide, police said Friday.
David Pichosky, 71, and Rochelle Wise, 66, were found dead Thursday evening inside their home in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Capt. Sonia Quinones of the Hallandale Beach Police Department said the bodies were found by a neighbour who used a spare key to check on the couple after they didn’t show up for a planned lunch.
Quinones said the cause of death and motive are still under investigation.
Wise was retired from a career dedicated to children and was remembered Friday as a mentor to many. She was the former director of Crestwood Valley Day Camp in Toronto from 1990 to 2005 and used to be a preschool vice-principal at Bialik Hebrew Day School.
Sonia Shron, Bialik’s executive director, said the news has hit the school community very hard.
“At this point it’s so surreal,” she said, declining to comment further.
The school later issued a statement saying the Bialik family is “distraught” by the loss of Wise and her “beloved husband,” who it referred to as Donny.
“Rochelle was an adored member of the community and respected as an outstanding educator and woman of great character and kind spirit,” the school’s statement said.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to their families and hope they find comfort knowing our thoughts and prayers are with them at this most difficult time.”
Wise was also remembered Friday as an “exceptional woman” who touched many lives at Crestwood over the years. Taylor de Sa, who worked with Wise in the office at the camp said she was a parental figure for many counsellors and was able to impart advice and wisdom to teen staffers.
“She has been a mentor and a friend to so many of us and I believe she has influenced more lives than she could have imagined,” de Sa said.
“She took an active interest in so many of us that we all feel a special connection to her. She taught us about kindness, leadership and business and in the end, she is a great example of a life well lived. I will always look up to her.”
The camp released a statement calling Wise a “selfless individual who took a genuine interest in the lives of everyone she came across.”
“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,” the camp’s statement said.
“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.”
Andrea Jones, who worked at Crestwood for nine summers teaching campers pottery, said news of Wise’s death brought her to tears.
“She was the kind of boss that you just wanted to do the best job for — you wanted her to be proud of you,” Jones said.
“She was very funny, like a real quick wit. I will miss her and think of Crestwood days fondly, but with such a dull ache now. It’s just not the same now.”
As someone who hired the camp staff she selected many who had no previous experience other than babysitting. Some former Crestwood staff say they feel Wise took a chance on them and believed in them.
David Galpern was 18 when he walked into Wise’s office with no idea what he was going to do in the summer after his first year at university.
“She took one look at me and she said, ‘I’m going to make you the head of sports,'” he recalled. Galpern did not know much about sports, he said.
“She told me years later that she knew the day I walked in that she didn’t know what the hell she wanted me to do, but she knew she wanted to have me there,” Galpern said.
“It was that kind of thing that she had with people, the ability to see something in them.”
Like many other former employees, Galpern kept in touch with Wise after he moved on from the summer camp world and reached out to her for advice when he was starting his own business.
Wise had an innate ability to manage people and get the best out of them, Galpern said.
“She would push me so hard and I would get so frustrated with her, but it was because she never accepted anything other than your best,” he said.
“She was pushy…but in a great way. We all wanted to do our best for her. I didn’t want to let her down.”
Neighbours told the Miami Herald the couple was “very warm” and friendly. The newspaper said the pair, who married four years ago, was very religious and could be seen walking to temple every Friday night.