By Shaun Chaiyabhat
PLAISTOW, New Hampshire (WCVB) — Nick and Joan Pichowicz, of New Hampshire, were public servants who were married 66 years. Nick Pichowitz served as a deputy sheriff in Rockingham County, while Joan Pichowitz was a Plaistow police officer.
The couple decided to donate their bodies to science and trusted Harvard Medical School to take care of their remains.
“They were giving people,” Paula Peltonovich said of her parents.
Peltonovich and her sister, Darlene Lynch, learned Wednesday that their father’s remains were part of a sordid scheme that happened in the Harvard Medical School morgue for several years.
“Is it real? I mean, yes, he was already passed away, but still,” Peltonovich said while fighting back tears.
Nick Pichowitz, who died in November 2019, was the unfortunate victim of a gruesome business in which federal authorities said the morgue’s former manager, Cedric Lodge, stole and sold human body parts that were dissected from cadavers donated to the school.
“Who could do something like that? What kind of person? No respect at all for the family,” Peltonovich said. “They need to pay.”
Harvard Medical School said it is working to find all of the families affected and has set up a website and hotline for donors’ families.
“Harvard University has appointed an external panel of experts to evaluate our Anatomical Gift Program and morgue policies and practices, with the goal of providing constructive feedback and recommendations to improve security for the program and for the generous whole-body donations it receives,” Harvard’s dean of the faculty of medicine George Daley and dean for medical education Edward Hundert wrote in a statement.
Peltonovich and Lynch, however, that they and their family fear they may never get the answers they need.
“You don’t know. There was stuff in buckets,” she said. “Is it my father’s ashes or not?”
Joan Pichowitz died March 14, and her remains are at Harvard Medical School, but her family has lost faith in the institution.
“She’s down there and we want her back,” Peltonovich said.
An indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania states Lodge, of Goffstown, New Hampshire, unlawfully transported stolen human remains across state lines from in or about 2018 through on or about Aug. 16, 2022. Harvard Medical School said Lodge worked in the morgue as part of the Anatomical Gift Program until he was fired on May 6.
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