EATON TWP. - Ruth Kohut handed out little stuffed animals to strangers in the Walmart parking lot Friday.
The random act of kindness was a tribute to her 26-year-old daughter, Victoria Todd Brong, who was murdered with two of her coworkers a year ago Friday during a shooting at Weis Markets in the township.
“It’s been a rough year,” she said, about a quarter of a mile from the Weis store. “But, things like this help me get through, that her life stood for something. We all miss her so much.”
Kohut couldn’t bear to be at the 600 Hunter Highway store where her daughter died violently.
Two hours into his overnight shift at the Wyoming County store, Randy Robert Stair barricaded the supermarket’s doors and pulled two shotguns from a duffel bag. Within minutes, Brong, Terry Lee Sterling, 63, and Brian Hayes, 47, lay dead of multiple gunshot wounds. Stair, who fired 59 shots inside the store, then took his own life.
The senseless shooting stunned the community, particularly as details emerged on Stair’s meticulous plans to carry them out. Just hours before the massacre, Stair posted online his massive trove of chilling videos, audio recordings and journal entries that showed he had surreptitiously planned the killings for months.
On Friday, customers at the Weis peacefully shopped in the completely remodeled store. The store closed for about a month after the shooting for the overhaul.
“Over the past year, the Tunkhannock community has embraced us and lifted us up,” said Weis spokesperson Dennis Curtain, from its corporate office in Sunbury. “We are truly grateful to them and to our associates who helped us reopen and serve a great community.”
Several customers at the store Friday recalled the shock of the shooting.
“I feel terrible for the victims and their families,” said shopper Robin Schultz of Tunkhannock. “Even though a year has passed, it’s still on people’s minds. The people at Weis did a good job bringing new life to the store.”
Pastor Terry Hughes, of the Springville United Methodist Church, who provided words of comfort to the family of Brian Hayes - who was a member of his church remembered, “I met with the family during the vigil they had following the shooting. I offered the family prayers and my deepest condolences.”
He acknowledged the grieving process is a difficult one, particularly on anniversaries, because it starts all over again.
“It was a difficult thing,” said Tiki Lyons of Tunkhannock. “It’s nice to see the people back and helping customers.”
“I sometimes wonder about what occurred,” said Ken Britton of Factoryville.
Britton said what happened just did not seem possible for a little community like Tunkhannock. But he is very pleased with the service Weis is still providing to its customers, following the shooting.
“Obviously, it was very sad,” said Nichole Hordesky of Dallas. “My younger sister won’t shop here any more. But, I think they did a really great job of remodeling after the shooting.”
“I like the way it feels now,” said Sheila Steele of Tunkhannock. “I love the remodeling they did.”
“People are still friendly,” said her husband, Bruce Steele.
Staff writer Robert Baker contributed to this report.