Clinton community remembers Wolfe sisters

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  1. The Wolfe sisters: A shared bond

    By Scott Levine
    Herald Associate Editor
    Published Feb. 12, 2014
    CLINTON — Susan and Sarah Wolfe were always considered the little sisters.
    Sarah would follow around her older sister Jenny, assisting in the record distribution company as a grade schooler. Suzy would find ways to help her older siblings, just to catch a moment of their time.
    Helping others came easy to the two sisters.
    Sarah spent five years caring for older sister Mary's son, thinking Mary was doing her a favor by letting her help raise John.
    Suzy would lend her vehicle to her neighbors while teaching in the Chicago Schools system.
    That's just the way Jack and Pierrette Wolfe raised their children — all eight of them to be exact.
    And when Sarah and Suzy were found shot to death Friday in their home in East Liberty, Pa., the Clinton and Pittsburgh community have rallied around a family that was taught long ago about the importance of helping others.
    "I am grateful for the hundreds of people that have reached out to me, just to let me know they are thinking of me and my whole family," said Iowa Rep. Mary Wolfe, the oldest of the Wolfe siblings. "That means so much to me and I'm proud to be representing such loving and compassionate people."
    No arrests have been made in what Pittsburgh police are calling a homicide.
    The incident has been difficult to process for the family, and for Pierrette, the situation doesn't seem real.
    "I'm surprised I can keep functioning," Pierrette said. "I'm surprised I'm not totally falling apart. It might hit me later. And I guess, I also have the feeling that lots of people in this world suffer and have horrible things happen to them. We're not immune."
    With that suffering comes a possibility of seeing the person or people responsible for this crime.
    It would be easy to want vengeance. It would be easy to feel anger. It would be easy to hate.
    Those attitudes wouldn't honor Sarah and Suzy, the family said.
    "They were so compassionate," Mary said. "They were the first ones to give someone the benefit of the doubt. They believed in second chances and they would want us to forgive.
    "They would want us to move on and not waste time hating whoever did this."
    A life of service
    It wasn't always easy for Sarah and Suzy.
    They struggled. At times, there were serious struggles with mental health.
    That didn't deter them. They coped and eventually used those trials as launching pads for successful careers.
    "They both overcame it," Jack said. "In Sarah's case, she overcame it and became an outstanding doctor. She's a symbol that people shouldn't give up on their dreams or on their lives or on their selves if they do have mental illness or depression."
    Sarah graduated from Clinton High School, and eventually earned a Masters of Public Health in 2004 and a MD from the University of Iowa in 2007. She recently completed her residency of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.
    A career in medicine wasn't always in Sarah's sights.
    It wasn't until late in college that she decided she would enter the medical field. Despite being later to the field, it didn't diminish her aptitude toward psychiatry.
    "She was 26 years old and started taking calculus and organic biology," older brother John said.
    At one point, a professor was so delighted with one of Sarah's responses to a calculus question, the teacher posted the answer on the door for all the students to see.
    "She turned out to be a brilliant, accomplished person," John said. "She was so understated, you wouldn't know it."
    For Suzy, her passion gave way to a life of service.
    Much like Sarah, she loved her nieces and nephews, and cats. Her passion extended to politics, labor organizations and to teaching, something that she had just traveled to Pennsylvania to do.
    Before becoming a teaching assistant at the Hillel Academy in Pittsburgh, Suzy's life was spent on and off in Clinton, showcasing her love of children and making a difference.
    "She had this powerful joy that would come bubbling up, and she would have this explosive laughter," John said. "And kids responded to it. She wasn't pretending to like what they liked. She loved it."
    Suzy graduated from Mater Dei High School in Clinton (now Prince of Peace) before earning a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa in 1999 and a B.A. with Honors in Elementary Education from Mount St. Clare College in December 2001.
    And although both of them had the degrees for success and high status, neither one cared about those symbols, the family said.
    Suzy didn't want a job where she wasn't helping someone. Sarah would go to the doctor's lounge to heat up soup for a family in need.
    Those are the ways the Wolfe family is remembering the two sisters before visitation Thursday and the funeral service Friday.
    "I was gone before they hit grade school and I am just amazed to learn so much about them," Mary said. "I wish I had known these things when they were alive so that I could tell them how incredible they were and how proud we are of them. We're blown away of how proud we are of them."
    Family and friends will have the opportunity to bid farewell to the sisters and show support for the family from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Prince of Peace Church, with a reception following at the Wild Rose Casino and Resort.
    The funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the church.
    That will give the family one last chance to say goodbye to the little sisters that Jack and Pierette raised.
    "Suzy and Sarah adopted that condition on life of you do what you can do for people," Mary said. "For family, you take care of them, and put them first and that's what our parents always did for us. And I'm proud that Suzy and Sarah clearly went out in the world and did the same thing. They didn't have children to take care of on their own, but they took care of so many people on their own."

    Iowa mourns Wolfe family tragedy

    By Brenden West
    Assistant Editor
    and Amy Kent
    Herald Staff Writer
    Published Feb. 10, 2014
    CLINTON — Tragic news from Pennsylvania reached the ears of Clinton residents early Saturday morning when a tearful state senator addressed them.
    State Rep. Mary Wolfe was absent from the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Coffee despite meeting with business leaders less than a day before. One of Wolfe's friends from the Legislature, Sen. Rita Hart, told the audience Saturday that shortly after Friday's town hall meeting in Clinton, Wolfe learned her sisters -- Susan and Sarah Wolfe -- were found dead in their East Liberty, Penn. home near Pittsburgh.
    "It’s just, pretty horrific and the Wolfe family are, you know, they’re good people so it’s hard," Hart said through a thickened voice. "So, I’m sure that you will all reach out to them and we’ll get through this like everything else.
    "We’re going to keep her in our prayers and our thoughts and do whatever we can to support her through this."
    Pittsburgh authorities were called to the 700 block of Chislett Street, East Liberty on Friday when Susan Wolfe didn't show up to work. A friend of the Wolfes let police into the home, where they discovered what is now being called a homicide.
    The sisters were pronounced dead at 1:48 p.m. Eastern Time, and the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office confirmed Sunday they died of single gunshot wounds to the head.
    Sarah and Susan were two of eight children in the John Wolfe family. Sarah Wolfe, 38, moved to Pittsburgh several years ago and was a pediatrician and psychologist who worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Susan Wolfe, 44, had recently joined her sister in Pennsylvania and was working as a teacher's aide.
    Both previously lived in Clinton. Funeral arrangements are pending.
    The news has grieved Mary Wolfe's fellow legislators. Rep. Steve Olson of DeWitt joined Rep. Wolfe in Clinton on Friday shortly before she received a call from Allegheny County authorities. Olson said he spent the weekend notifying fellow legislators.
    “This is more drastic than anything we’ve had in the past,” he said on Saturday.
    Hart said she considers Rep. Wolfe a close friend.
    "Mary has been extremely instrumental in helping me," Hart said. "Everyone is extremely empathetic to the Wolfe family and it's just a horrible tragedy. We'll do everything we can to support them."
    The Wolfe family was reached at John Wolfe's law office and declined comment to the Clinton Herald. Family members worked through the weekend to prepare obituaries for Susan and Sarah Wolfe.
    Rep. Wolfe told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that her family was still trying to gather information.
    “Right this minute, we’re still trying to figure out what happened,” she said to the Gazette. “They were both incredible people, and we would like their friends and colleagues to know a little bit more about them and how much we appreciate their thoughts and wishes.”
    Authorities conducted an autopsy on Saturday. The Gazette reported the Wolfe sisters had other injuries such as bruises. Dr. Karl Williams said those injuries did not contribute to the deaths of the sisters, according to the Gazette.
    "Both Sarah and Susan (Wolfe) the cause of death (was a) gunshot wound to the head," said an official from the Allegheny County Medical Examiners office. He confirmed their manner of death was a homicide.
    After finding the deceased, Pittsburgh Police found a car away from the scene which they believe belonged to one of the sisters. The Gazette reported a lime green 2011 Ford Fiesta was found at 1:15 a.m. Saturday.
    The Gazette reported police believe the murder suspect stole the vehicle. It was found roughly a mile away from the homicide.
    Pittsburgh Police Lt. Daniel Hermann said police are conducting an active investigation into the deaths, according to the Gazette.
    News of the tragedy spread quickly among state leaders. Iowa House Majority Leader Mark Smith has said Wolfe is taking time off from her duties. Olson said some legislators are preparing to attend funeral services.
    "Of course, some of the close friends of Mary's had gotten wind of this and contacted majority leader (Mark) Smith," he said.
    Meanwhile, Rep. Wolfe thanked the local community on Facebook for its outreach during the difficult time.
    "Thank you to my friends and neighbors and colleagues and to Suzy's and Sarah's friends and neighbors and colleagues for all of the lovely thoughts and prayers and food and support that my family has received over the past 24 hours - we are so grateful," she wrote. "Heartbroken, but grateful."

    UPDATE: Medical examiner concludes Penn. women died of gunshots to the head

    By Brenden West
    Assistant Editor
    Published Feb. 9, 2014
    EAST LIBERTY, Penn. – An officer from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office confirmed today that the two sisters of state Rep. Mary Wolfe were victims of homicide, with both sustaining gunshot wounds to the head.
    "Both Sarah and Susan (Wolfe) the cause of death (was a) gunshot wound to the head," said the officer, confirming the time of their deaths at 1:38 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday. He confirmed their manner of death was a homicide.
    The Medical Examiner's office conducted autopsies on the two women Saturday.
    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Saturday that Dr. Karl Williams, Allegheny County Medical Examiner, was still waiting on more results of the autopsy to determine an exact time of death.
    "They're complex cases," Williams told the Gazette. "... Things change, bruising patterns change, different things if you wait a little while.
    "We do it fairly routinely if we think we may be able to see other patterns of injury develop after a period of time," Williams said.
    The Gazette broke news late Friday that the sisters of Mary Wolfe – Susan Wolfe, 44, and Sarah Wolfe, 38 – were pronounced dead at 1:48 p.m. from apparent gunshot wounds in their basement on Chislett Street in East Liberty.
    Mary Wolfe, of Clinton, their sister, represents District 98 in the Legislature, which covers Clinton, Andover, Goose Lake and Charlotte.
    “Right this minute, we’re still trying to figure out what happened,” Mary Wolfe told the Gazette on Friday. “They were both incredible people, and we would like their friends and colleagues to know a little bit more about them and how much we appreciate their thoughts and wishes.”
    At around 9:30 p.m., Saturday, Wolfe posted on Facebook to thank those who have reached out to her and her family in light of the tragic news.
    "Thank you to my friends and neighbors and colleagues and to Suzy's and Sarah's friends and neighbors and colleagues for all of the lovely thoughts and prayers and food and support that my family has received over the past 24 hours - we are so grateful," the post said. "Heartbroken, but grateful."
    Earlier Friday, Wolfe attended a town hall meeting with Sens. Rita Hart, Steve Dotzler, Steve Sodders and Rep. Steve Olson. Hart said Wolfe learned the tragic news shortly after the meeting, and called her around 4:30 p.m.
    “Everyone is extremely empathetic to the Wolfe family, and it's just a horrible tragedy,” Hart said on Saturday, calling Wolfe a close friend. “We'll do everything we can to support her.”
    Pittsburgh Police Lt. Daniel Hermann said Friday that authorities are conducting an active investigation, according to the Gazette. On early Saturday morning, police found a car connected with the crime. The car is believed to belong to one of the sisters.
    Susan and Sarah Wolfe recently moved to the Pennsylvania home, Olson said. Susan worked as a teacher’s aide and Sarah was a pediatrician and psychiatrist.
    The Gazette reported police found the bodies after a friend let authorities into the sisters’ home. A concerned co-worker of Susan Wolfe summoned police to check on her well-being.
    Olson said he found out shortly after Hart and spent the past two days notifying fellow legislators of the news.
    “This is more drastic than anything we’ve had in the past,” he said Saturday.
    Olson added state leaders have reached out to the Wolfe family offering their condolences.
    Hart said word has spread quickly within the Legislature.


    Sisters of local state rep found dead in Pennsylvania home

    By Brenden West
    Assistant Editor
    Published Feb. 8, 2014
    CLINTON – Two sisters of an Iowa state representative were found dead Friday at their suburban Pittsburgh home.
    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the sisters of State Rep. Mary Wolfe – Susan Wolfe, 44, and Sarah Wolfe, 38 – were pronounced dead at 1:48 p.m. from apparent gunshot wounds in their basement on Chislett Street in East Liberty, Penn.
    Wolfe, of Clinton, represents District 98 in the Legislature, which covers Clinton, Andover, Goose Lake and Charlotte.
    “Right this minute, we’re still trying to figure out what happened,” Wolfe told the Gazette on Friday. “They were both incredible people, and we would like their friends and colleagues to know a little bit more about them and how much we appreciate their thoughts and wishes.”
    Earlier that day, Wolfe attended a town hall meeting with Sens. Rita Hart, Steve Dotzler, Steve Sodders and Rep. Steve Olson. Hart said Wolfe learned the tragic news shortly after the meeting, and called her around 4:30 p.m.
    “Everyone is extremely empathetic to the Wolfe family, and it's just a horrible tragedy,” Hart said on Saturday, calling Wolfe a close friend. “We'll do everything we can to support her.”
    Pittsburgh Police Lt. Daniel Hermann said Friday that authorities are conducting an active investigation, according to the Gazette. On early Saturday morning, police found a car connected with the crime. The car is believed to belong to one of the sisters.
    Susan and Sarah Wolfe recently moved to the Pennsylvania home, Olson said. Susan worked as a teacher’s aide and Sarah was a pediatrician and psychiatrist.
    The Gazette reported police found the bodies after a friend let authorities into the sisters’ home. A concerned co-worker of Susan Wolfe summoned police to check on her well-being.
    Olson said he found out shortly after Hart and spent the past two days notifying fellow legislators of the news.
    “This is more drastic than anything we’ve had in the past,” he said Saturday.
    Olson added state leaders have reached out to the Wolfe family offering their condolences.
    Hart said word has spread quickly within the Legislature.

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