Members of several local country bands, including (above, from left) Shane Fabiani, Chris Shrive, Ashley Marie, and Mike Edwards performed for the standing-room-only crowd.
Photos and story by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)
As the icy waters of the Susquehanna River flowed swiftly but silently past the village of West Fall in Wyoming County, family members of Haley Lorenzen stood with tear-filled eyes as local residents showed their support for the Oregon resident whose life was cut short in December. Hundreds of people attended a dinner fundraiser at Ardee’s Foodrinkery on Sunday. Hundreds more made direct donations and passed up on the meal.
The Rev. Lou Divis of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Tunkhannock offered the invocation, expressing the sense of shock and loss shared by a community to whom Haley was a virtual stranger but who epitomized the daughter, sister, and niece that no-one deserved to lose so tragically. “Bless us as we grieve that this could happen here,” Divis prayed.
The event was coordinated by Lizz Dewolf and Rick Wilbur (below) to raise enough money to cover travel and lodging expenses for the family, who first came to Wyoming County when they were informed by police that Haley was missing and later presumed murdered by the man with whom she was residing in the nearby village of Mill City.
A former girlfriend of Phillip Walters told police that she went to house and cleaned up the crime scene before helping Walters dump Haley’s body, bound with bags of rocks, over the side of the Falls Route 92 bridge into the river on Dec. 30. The body has yet to be recovered, largely due to river ice and high waters that have challenged dive teams.
An anonymous donor purchased plane tickets and secured lodging for Haley’s mother, Deanna Hills, father Ralph Lorenzen, sister Sara Hills, and aunt Tracy Dominique to come in on Saturday, planning to return to Oregon on Monday. They admitted to being overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people they’d never before known.
“This community is just wonderful. The outreach has been unbelievable,” said Deanna, noting that everyone whom her family has dealt with, including the police, businesses and individuals, have been compassionate and generous. “People kept asking us if we had family in Pennsylvania, which we didn’t. But we do now.”.
Country music was provided by a local all-star band comprised of Shane Fabiani of the Tommy Guns Band, Mike Edwards of the Wells River Band, solo singer Chris Shrive, and Flatland Ruckus vocalist Ashley Marie who brought a hush over the crowd with her rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Dewolf and Wilbur reported after the event that more than 244 meal tickets were sold, and thousands of dollars were raised via basket raffles, 50/50 drawings and cash contributions. Traffic at the bend on Route 92 in West Falls was brought to a standstill many times throughout the afternoon as supporters jockeyed for what little parking remained.
“All the food, desserts and paper supplies were donated,” Dewolf noted.
“How awesome is that?” Wilbur remarked, adding that the bartenders also donated their tip money from the event.”
In addition to airfare and hotel expenses for the family, money raised on Feb. 10 will be used to send Haley home when she is found. According to Lake Winola Fire Chief and county EMA director Gene Dziak, the search for Haley will resume as soon as water conditions permit. “We won’t quit until we find her,” he stated.
Additional photos by Rick Hiduk
Patrons of the Haley Lorenzen benefit held in Falls on Sunday lined up to enjoy a wide variety of pastas prepared by the staff of Ardee’s Foodrinkery.
Diners enjoyed live country music and an Italian meal while supporting Haley’s family.
Rose Harvey Left) and Angela Sardo sold 50/50 and basket raffle tickets to help raise money for Haley’s family.