Mt. Pleasant Township woman among 22 recipients of Carnegie medal
Donna Rice says she inexplicably starts sobbing over the senseless death of her beloved daughter, Stacey Rice Feiling, who was recognized Thursday as a Carnegie Hero for her lifesaving actions three years ago in a tiny Westmoreland County village.
On her way home from work on June 1, 2010, Feiling, 42, stopped her Isuzu Rodeo in the middle of Route 981 in the Mt. Pleasant Township village of Calumet to help a stranger in trouble.
Moments later, Raymond J. Piper Sr. of Calumet shot the Good Samaritan in the face.
“I’m real happy about the award because I wanted Stacey to go down in history for what she did. But it’s really a bittersweet thing … she’s no longer here,” Rice said.
Rice said she cried tears of joy Tuesday after she opened a letter from the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announcing bronze medals would be awarded to Stacey and two other men from Mt. Pleasant Township, Mark A. Garsteck and John E. Swartz, who kept others from harm’s way during Piper’s shooting rampage.
The trio from Westmoreland are among 22 from across the United States and Canada cited by the commission. Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie started the fund after learning of extraordinary acts of heroism during a 1904 explosion at a coal mine in Springdale Township that killed 181 people.
The Calumet tragedy began to unfold at about dusk when Piper’s wife, Janet, flagged down Feiling, begging for help because she and her 16-year-old daughter, KarenAnne, had been shot by her husband.
As Janet Piper ran around the vehicle to jump into the passenger seat, Raymond Piper, armed with a rifle and handgun, opened Feiling’s door and fired the fatal shot, state police said.
Rice of Unity Township said it was not unusual for their daughter, who worked as a receptionist at Arnold Palmer Pavilion, a UPMC cancer treatment center in Unity, to help others. The cancer center is just a few miles from Greater Latrobe High School, where she graduated in 1985.
“I knew she was under consideration for the award, but there are so many worthy people I would have understood if someone else got it. It is a wonderful honor and I am truly happy Stacey was honored,” Rice said.
“She had a unique personality, just like her dad (Earl Rice), to make others feel so wonderful,” said Rice.
Garsteck, 55, had just gotten home to Calumet from his job as a sales representative when he heard gunfire. He found that Piper had shot and wounded his wife and teenage daughter, and was chasing them through the back yard.
Garsteck approached the armed Piper and attempted to calm him. Swartz, 47, an auto body technician who lived nearby, attempted to summon help, the commission said.
Piper fired at Swartz twice at close range, just missing him, as Swartz drove his pickup truck to a nearby garage to warn others of Piper’s rampage.
The commission said Piper then began to chase Garsteck around a parked car and fired a shot at him, but missed.
Piper then ran toward his wife.
“Seeing two minor boys in (Piper’s) back yard, Garsteck returned there and ushered them to safety,” the commission said.
As Garsteck looked for others who may be in harm’s way, the commission said, a bloodied Janet Piper approached Feiling’s vehicle to jump into the passenger seat.
Raymond Piper, armed with a rifle and handgun, then shot Feiling as Janet Piper fled. Swartz saw the shooting, and parked his truck to block oncoming traffic.
The commission commended both Garsteck and Swartz, who attempted to aid Feiling while Piper continued firing at the pair from a distance.
The commission said that both men kept conversing with Piper until police arrived and subdued him.
Piper, 39, pleaded guilty in October 2011 to third-degree murder.
Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec sentenced Piper to 30 to 60 years in a state prison. He is at SCI LaBelle in Fayette County.
Stacey Feiling and her husband, Ron, celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary at The Nest Restaurant in Jeannette just 11 days before the tragic shooting.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.