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2022 in Review: Part One of Four

January, February and March: A tornado touches down — and a plane crashes — in Hilltown

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The first three months of 2022 saw disasters both natural — a tornado touched down in Bedminster and Hilltown — and man-made — a single engine plane crashed at Brittany and Victoria lanes in Hilltown.

In the schools, Pennridge advised its social studies teachers to tread lightly when discussing the historical significance of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and Central Bucks began discussing a change to its library policy.

Efforts to preserve the Parry Barn in New Hope and Stone Meadows Farm in Middletown grabbed headlines.

In legal news, the county sued manufacturers of PFAS, Central Bucks West High School’s former choir director was charged with indecent assault and Anna Maria Tolomello, the owner of Pina’s Pizza in New Britain, was charged with killing partner Giovanni Gallina.

It all happened in January, February and March of this year.

January

*On the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, Pennridge School District social studies teachers are told not to “wade in” to discussions of the historic event in Washington D.C. If asked, teachers are told, “simply state that the investigation is ongoing and as historians we must wait until there is some distance from the event for us to accurately interpret it,” wrote Keith Veverka, the district’s K-12 social studies administrator.

*A $1 million gift to Doylestown Health establishes the Marvin and Dee Ann Woodall Endowed Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery, the first endowed chair in the health system’s nearly 100-year history. The Woodalls have contributed generously to a broad spectrum of programs at Doylestown Health for more than 30 years.

*Kicking off its 20th anniversary year, New Hope Arts adds programming of collaborative performance art, including live music, theatrical presentations and poetry, all to complement its existing array of annual shows which include sculpture, wood, painting, photography, fine artisan crafts and new media installations.

*The first state-directed health care strike team is deployed at Grand View Health. The team includes 10 registered nurses provided through GHR Healthcare under a contract with the state Department of Health. This is the first component of a multi-layered initiative to support Pennsylvania’s health care staffing shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

*Wegmans supermarket in Warrington sells a Powerball with Power Play ticket worth $2 million, and a Wawa in Bensalem sells a $5 Million Money Maker Scratch-Off.

’Twas snowing hard all night

Photograph by Carol Ross:  Sledders enjoy the first measurable snow of winter at Magill’s Hill in Solebury Township.

February

*Bucks County Playhouse and the New Hope Historical Society jointly announce a new alliance to share and protect the Parry Barn, one of the oldest stone structures in New Hope. Part of the original Parry family property, the Parry Barn sits between the historical society’s Parry Mansion Museum and Bucks County Playhouse. Built around 1790, the barn is owned by the historical society and leased by Bucks County Playhouse.

*More than a dozen Pennsylvania Republicans, including some in Bucks County, join with other party officials and candidates to sign an “alternate certificate” of election results, in the event Donald Trump was found to have won the 2020 election, according to American Oversight, a watchdog group that recently sought the records in a Freedom of Information Act request. Patricia K. Poprik, chairwoman of the Bucks County Republican Party, joins 19 others, including Ted Christian, a local party leader and former advisor to Trump, and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates Lou Barletta and Charlie Gerow.

*The former choir director and chair of the music department at Central Bucks West High School in Doylestown is charged with hiding cameras in his home and filming a former student undressing there without his knowledge. Joseph G. Ohrt, 56, of Buckingham, also is charged with attempting to destroy the recording devices and invasion of privacy. A highly regarded teacher in the district for 34 years, Ohrt is credited with establishing a premier music program within Central Bucks.

*A deal is all but done for preserving and developing the land at Stone Meadows Farm in Middletown Township. The 168-acre farm on the east side of Route 413 at the Newtown Bypass is believed to be the last remaining farm in the township. The farm is part of the estate of Ezra Stone, a radio star known as Henry Aldrich in “The Aldrich Family” show in the 1940s and 1950s. Ezra’s son, Josef Stone, farmed the land until his death. Ezra Stone’s father was Sol Finestone, the founder of the David Library of the American Library of the Revolution.

*Central Bucks School Board begins weighing the idea of changing district policy to remove library books that brought controversy in recent months. An information session comes on the heels of campaigns by parents and community members to remove books they deem inappropriate for students, such as “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison.

*Two men are killed in a single engine airplane crash at the intersection of Brittany and Victoria lanes in Hilltown Township. Bucks County Coroner Meredith J. Buck identifies the men as Alfred George Piranian, 74, of Chalfont, and Brian Filippini, 55, of Philadelphia. No people on the ground are injured. The pilot is credited with avoiding houses and nearby Pennridge Central Middle School.

February thaw

Photograph by Carole Mebus: The Delaware River is filled bank-to-bank with ice flowing downstream.

March

*A Doylestown Township supervisor who rebuffed calls for her resignation following her distribution of a politically motivated flier considered by many to be racist and homophobic, is removed from her committee and delegate assignments by her fellow supervisors. Nancy Santacecilia, a Republican, consistently said she would not resign her seat, and has defended the flier as “factual.”

*In an unusual alignment of public officials, the Bucks County commissioners and the district attorney jointly file a lawsuit against a long list of manufacturers of PFAS, a cocktail of chemicals used in firefighting foam and other applications which, they said, have contaminated the county’s natural resources for decades. The suit seeks civil fines, penalties and restoration under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

*Central Bucks West High School’s former choir director is arrested and charged with indecent assault of two young male students in the 1990s. The new charges follow 56-year-old Joseph G. Ohrt’s arrest in February for allegedly filming a former student unknowingly while he was undressing at Ohrt’s Buckingham home, where he was living.

*The Frenchtown Inn, owned by the Tomko family since 1996, announces on its website that it is changing hands. The historic Central New Jersey inn serves its last meal and cancels future reservations. All gift cards are to be honored by the new owner. Jill Kearney, the visionary behind the Frenchtown ArtYard, agreed to buy the inn. The Frenchtown Inn has not reopened.

*Felicia Zegler, a member of the Bucks County Herald Staff is named to Editor & Publisher Magazine’s “25 under 35” list for 2022 in a competition that includes news media representatives from around the country. Zegler, 32, is special publications manager and associate editor for the Herald. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Arcadia University and has been with the Herald almost 10 years.

*A Texas truck driver and a California woman are found guilty of trafficking $5.6 million worth of drugs through Bucks County. Christian Ochoa, 29, of Laredo, Texas, and Edith Tomasa Rodriguez Cardenas, 28, of Huntington Park, Calif., are both sentenced to state prison; Ochoa to 7 ½ to 15 years and Rodriguez Cardenas to eight to 16 years.

*A Hilltown Township woman is charged with homicide in the death of her longtime partner, with whom she owned Pina’s Pizza in New Britain. Anna Maria Tolomello, 48, volunteers to police that she shot Giovanni Gallina, 65, in self-defense and that his body is “wrapped up” in the bedroom of their home in the 1400 block of Limekiln Pike. Police find Gallina’s body wrapped in a blue tarp in the master bedroom. Police said Tolomello had contracted to have a large hole dug in her backyard where she intended to bury him. In addition to criminal homicide, she is charged with abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and possession of an instrument of a crime.

*A tornado touches down in Bedminster and Hilltown townships, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., confirms. With estimated peak winds of 100 miles per hour, the tornado is classified as an EF1 on the Fujita Scale, which runs from EF0 to EF5. The NWS said the tornado is on the ground for two miles and is 100 yards wide at most. There are no injuries and no deaths reported as a result of the tornado.

Twice as nice

Photograph by Michael A. Apice: Faith Christian Academy boys basketball head coach Seth Brunner hoists the District One Class A trophy after the Lions defeat Plumstead Christian. It was the second district title of the day for Faith, whose girls basketball team captured its first district title earlier in the afternoon.

The Bucks County Herald takes a four-part look at the events that shaped our 2022. 

Read Part Two of Four >>

Read Part Three of Four >>

Read Part Four of Four >>

2022 in Review

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