Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Lost Children of the Poconos

There are many people that I grew up with who met with a tragic end very early in their lives.  I pray for a large group of them daily.  There are several of them whose deaths have truly haunted me over the years.  I've since reached a time in my life where I want to remember and memorialize these people, so I started a group on Facebook for this purpose and named it "The Lost Children of the Poconos".


One of my first posts was about a young man named Michael "Rover" Rovlenchik.  Michael was one of a group of us who lived at the Tobyhanna Village Apartments in Tobyhanna, PA back in the 60s.  He also belonged to a smaller subset of us who attended Pocono Central Catholic School (PCC) in Cresco, PA.  Michael was almost a decade older than me, but we all used to ride a big Army bus to school daily, courtesy of Colonel Edward Holland, Post Commander at the Tobyhanna Army Depot. Back then, people from Grades 1 through 12 rode the bus together, which was a very interesting experience.  Michael was also a member of St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church, which is where my family and I went to church.

Michael was a very nice young man and was well liked by all who knew him.  One evening during the 4th of July weekend in 1968, Michael and his friend Billy Flaherty were hanging out at Gerrity's, which was a greasy spoon restaurant in downtown Tobyhanna back then. Apparently they were having a great time and didn't realize how late it had become.  According to my brother-in-law Blake Flaherty, (Billy's brother) they were worried about violating their curfew, so they both started running on foot to get home.  They split off at the corner near St. Ann's Church and their last words were "see you tomorrow".  Micheal's way home up to the Tobyhanna Village Apartments involved crossing the railroad tracks and running mostly uphill along about a mile of a very dark road with double lanes.

The 10:07 PM train was riding through Tobyhanna as Michael approached the railroad tracks and apparently he thought that he could safely make it across the tracks. Unfortunately, he misjudged the train's distance and was hit and killed.  Billy said that he heard the train's whistle right after he and Michael split up.  The whole community was stunned by his death!  Micheal was the first person that I knew to die and his death really rocked my world!

One of the girls who lived in the Village at that time and a PCC alumna said that after Micheal's death, his parents moved away from Tobyhanna because they couldn't bear the sound of the whistle of the 10:07  PM train as it rolled through town every evening.

Another one of our PCC Alumni said that Michael used to date the girl who lived next door to him in Gouldsboro. He said that he could hear that ten o'clock train whistle blow that tragic evening back in 1968 and Mike's girlfriend being brought home that night crying uncontrollably.

Here is a tribute page dedicated to him in the 1969 PCC Yearbook:

Micheal's Tribute Page in the 1969 PCC Yearbook - Courtesy of Danielle Rake

I'd like to thank my PCC alumna Danielle Rake for being so kind and taking the time to go to the school's library and scan this memorial out of the 1969 Yearbook!

Here's the article in the Pocono Record, which I clearly remember reading back then.  

WARNING:  This article is extremely graphic about the details of Micheal's death!!!!  If you're sensitive, please don't read it!!

Pocono Record Article about Micheal's Death

Michael was laid to rest in St. Catherine's Cemetery in Moscow, PA, which is the same place where my mother, father and brother John are buried. 

He is gone but not forgotten!


Birth: Aug. 2, 1956
East Stroudsburg
Monroe County
Pennsylvania, USA
.Death: Aug. 10, 1977
Delaware Water Gap
Monroe County
Pennsylvania, USA

David Gross was a young man that I knew from High School who died tragically at a young age.  He  was the cousin of Janice Gross, a friend of mine in the 5th grade at Coolbaugh Elementary School.  He also dated a High School friend of mine named Jaye Ann Miller.  

The last time that I saw Dave was at the graduation ceremony for my class, the Pocono Central Catholic High School Class of 1977.  He and his parents came to see Jaye Ann graduate from High School.  After the ceremony, Dave walked up to Jaye Ann and handed her a present and she was really nasty to him!  It made me feel pretty bad, partially because of something that occurred earlier on that year.  My Aunt Mary Jeanne was really good friends with Dave's mother Pat.  Sometime earlier that year, Pat had complained to my Aunt that she was tired of Jaye Ann making food for Dave at their house and leaving a mess in the kitchen. My Aunt told my mother and I about this one evening at our dining room table.  Unfortunately, I ended up telling Jaye Ann about it and she went ballistic!  She ended up breaking up with him not much longer after that. I hope that my telling her about that wasn't part of the reason for their breakup! 

One August evening several months later, the story is that Dave was seen flashing some money at a party.  Despite the fact that he had no apparent enemies, he was found beaten to death at 1:37 a.m. the next morning under a rubber tarpaulin in the back seat of his 1975 Chevrolet Nova hatchback. The car was in a parking area known as the Arrow Island Overlook at Delaware Water Gap. Somebody had bashed his head in with a tire iron. The method of murder definitely indicated that the killer was enraged.  To this day, I don't think that his killer(s) have ever been caught. Although I have my suspicions about who might have been involved in his murder, I'm just going to keep them to myself. What a senseless tragedy!

Here's David's senior portrait from the 1974 Pocono Mountain High School Yearbook:

David Gross in his 1974 Gradation Picture

Here is his obituary from the Pocono Record:

David Allen Gross, 21, of Winona Road, Mount Pocono, PA died on Thursday, August 10, 1977. He was a murder victim.

He was born in East Stroudsburg on August 2, 1956, the only son of George R. and Patricia (Kemmerer) Gross of Mount Pocono. He lived in Mount Pocono all of his life.

He was employed as a carpenter by Ervin W. Gross & Sons of Mount Pocono. He was a member of the Mount Allen Hunting Assn and was a graduate of the Pocono Mountain High School Class of 1974.

In addition to his parents, he was survived by his maternal grandfather, Norman Kemmerer of Allentown and his paternal grandmother, Mrs. Lillian Gross of Mount Pocono.

David was laid to rest at Arlington Memorial Park Cemetery in Whitehall, PA.

Rest in Peace, Dave!

9/6/2014 Update on David Gross 

I just found this article written by Bryan Hay from the Morning Call, 2 June 1996

Murder Baffles Police * Few Clues Surface Since Mount Pocono Man Was Found Dead.

State police are working to end a 19-year-old homicide investigation that began with a Mount Pocono man found bludgeoned at a scenic overlook along Route 611 in Upper Mount Bethel Township.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Aug. 11, 1977, Upper Mount Bethel Township Patrolman Jack Nolf discovered the body of David Allen Gross, 21, at Arrow Island Lookout in the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area.

Gross was in a pool of blood under a tarpaulin in the rear of his locked 1975 Chevrolet Monza hatchback.

Nolf, now police chief, declined to reminisce about that day and deferred to state police, who have been handling the case.

Gross' death, the most recent installment of the Lehigh Valley Crime Stoppers program, resulted from strangulation and a severe beating about the head and body, according to the autopsy.

Because there was no sign of a struggle at the scene, police suspect the murder may have happened somewhere else the day before.

A rope, the kind used with pulleys on exercise equipment, was tied tightly around his neck. The body was fully clothed and the car keys were missing. No weapon was found at the site, about two miles north of Portland.

Trooper Andrew Canepa of the Belfast barracks, who has been on the case for about two years, believes Gross was robbed.

Gross had celebrated his 21st birthday with a big party at his family's home in Cresco six days before police discovered his body.

"We are constantly trying to put everything together to make a proper arrest and still need as much help as we can get," said Canepa, who was at the Limerick, Montgomery County, barracks last week working on the case.

"We know for a fact that there are people in the Lehigh Valley who are aware of or have some information or rumors as to what happened to this victim," he added. "We encourage them to please call."

Gross' mother, Patricia, said she and her husband, George, do not have any new information about the murder of their only child. She said Canepa has been vigilantly following the case and keeps close contact with them.

Even though their son's murder devastated their lives, Patricia Gross said she and her husband have tried to put it behind them and shy away from contact with the media.

Gross worked as a carpenter in his father's contracting business in Mount Pocono.

"He (George Gross) doesn't like talking to reporters," Mrs. Gross said. "He was our only son, our only child. We hope that somebody would come forward."

"To have an only child brutally murdered is a trauma none of us ever want to live with," added Canepa, who says the crime is solvable. "What's worse, there has been no justice."

Tipsters can call Lehigh Valley Crime Stoppers at 1-800-426-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous and could be eligible for an award up to $1,000.

I pray that one day David's murder will be solved!

04/11/2015 Update 

A Facebook friend of mind and fellow Pocono Mountains native Cameron Texter recently shared this article about David on my Lost Children of the Poconos Group.  The article was in the Pocono Record on November 12, 1977, Page 19:

Article in the Pocono Record on November 12, 1977, Page 19:

 Unfortunately, David's killer still remains at large.


Birth: Jun. 1, 1959
Death: Aug. 11, 1987

Dave Schmitt was a classmate of mine during Middle School at PCC. He and I learned to play guitar together from Sister Kathleen, one of the teachers at PCC during that time.  We had fun sneaking cigarettes, skipping an occasional class or two, and cutting up in class. He eventually ended up going over to Pocono Mountain High School and I think that he graduated from there.

Dave lost his brother Ned in a motorcycle accident in 1986.  This plus other events in his life led up to what must have been an extreme moment of despair on August 11, 1987, when Dave committed suicide at his home in Tobyhanna. 

Here are a few pictures that I got from Teresa Kelly, a girl who I sat with in Chemistry class at Pocono Mountain High School, who was close friends with Dave:

Dave Schmitt in 1978 - Courtesy of Teresa Kelly
Dave in a hat, circa 1978

Here is his obituary that was in the Pocono Record on Wednesday, August 12, 1987

TOBYHANNA - David Charles Schmitt, 28, of Tobyhanna, a singer and guitarist for several local groups, died Tuesday at his home from a self-inflicted injury.

Born in Bethlehem, he was a son of Edward T. and Olive (Schaffer) Schmitt of Indianapolis, Ind. He had been a Mount Pocono area resident since 1968.

He was a self-employed contractor, operating New Additions of Mount Pocono. He had been a singer and lead guitarist for "Golden Fleece", "Band Teaser" and "Sirens Cry." He was also an avid skier, golfer, fisherman and outdoors man.

He was a member of St. Mary of the Mount Roman Catholic Church, Mount Pocono.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his paternal grandmother, Bertha Schmitt of Levittown, Long Island, N.Y.; and three sisters, Mrs. Arthur (Ellen) Anderson, Mrs. Gregory (Sally) Bush, and Barbara Schmitt, all of Stroudsburg.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 AM Friday at St. Mary of the Mount Roman Catholic Church, Mount Pocono, with Monsignor Arthur J. Kaschenbach as celebrant.

A viewing will be held from 7 to 8:30 PM Thursday in the William H. Clark Funeral Home, Stroudsburg, where a wake service will be held at 8 PM.

David was laid to rest next to his brother Ned in the Buena Vista Cemetery, Broadheadsville.

Rest in Peace, Dave!


Birth: Jan. 5, 1962
Death: Feb. 25, 1975

I'll never forget one of the saddest days ever at school back on February 25, 1975. Pocono Mountain School, or "The Jointure" as it was called back then, had an indoor swimming pool which was incorporated into the school's physical education program. I hated gym class in that pool for more reasons than I want to get into here! Needless to say, the water was heavily chlorinated and the pool area was always thick with mist and humidity. It was hard to breathe in that environment and everybody's eyes were always bloodshot for the rest of the day after swimming in it.

On this day back in 1975, a Middle School student named David Keiper was attending gym class in the pool. The story is that he was swimming with his classmates when he suddenly fell down into the shallow end of the pool. One of the gym teachers performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him, but he died in the ambulance on the way to the General Hospital of Monroe County. I remember several of our gym teachers walking through the halls at school that day crying. It was assumed that David had drowned, but an autopsy ruled out drowning and determined the exact cause of death to be cardiac-respiratory failure.

This hit us hard at home as David and his family lived right down the street from us in Tobyhanna. Everybody in town was shocked and saddened by his death! He was only 13 years old! My family and I attended his funeral at Tobyhanna Methodist Church. I felt so sorry for his family!

David was such a nice young man that his classmates eulogized him as a "friend to all who needed one" and planted a Japanese cherry tree in front of the school with a commemorative plaque underneath it. They also purchased an oil painting of a Pocono Mountain scene and dedicated it in his name and established a Student Government fund to sponsor an eighth grade boy at the Tobyhanna Basketball Camp every summer.

David was far too young to die, but God had other plans for him. Here's a picture of him along with his obituary from the Pocono Record, Wednesday, 26 February 1975, Page 10.

David Scott Keiper

  Rest in Peace, David!



  1. I was thinking about and missing people from my past.I am not from here originally but I knew both Dave Gross and Dave Scmitt. Dave Gross was one of the sweetest people I ever met and it's always bothered me that his killer was never found. I was actually in a band with Dave Schmitt, at a very low point in my life. I could never picture him committing suicide. He always seemed strong and focused. Any way... thank you for posting about them and showing their beautiful faces . Shelley Paesano

    1. I hope that my blog and the pictures brought back some good memories for you, Shelley! I'll never forget these guys or what happened to them.

  2. I am a big fan of Forensic Files and while watching an episode tonight, I was reminded of David Gross. I remember him from Shop class with Mr. Mader and the intricate metal working items he made there. I remember him being murdered, and I always wondered what happened to his case. I am glad to see that the state police are working on this cold case and I hope they catch the person involved so justice can be served, and closure can be brought to the families involved. by william helbig 1977 Pocono Mtn School


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I joined the Air Force when I was 18 years old and very happily went far, far away from home.  I love to travel and have been to many places, mostly in Europe. I plan to go to many more exotic locales before I leave this earth.