Comments and reflections | Debbie Moser

 Debbie Moser | Reflections | Media Coverage 
From Kathleen Sheehy, Kitchener, Ontario

When I first started reading the news article, I got quite upset, thinking Deb was alone and gasping for breath waiting for help. At least the fire crew got there quickly and gave her oxygen so she probably wasn’t too uncomfortable and she wasn’t alone. Yeah, she could be stubborn, and she was so weary of being hospitalized, I can understand her determination to stay out. Maybe the situation will result in some improvement in the city’s response system. New Year’s Eve – definitely the worst time to need emergency response teams. And an ambulance from South Philly sent to the Great Northeast! They must have been stretched.

Comment from high school friend Earl Paine (note different spelling of last name)

Hi Patrick…

Oh my .. I didn’t know..THANK YOU for getting word to me. I would have never recognized the name Payne (even though mine is Paine) as being Debbie Moser. I have fond memories and despite not having seen her for many years, will see if I can get to the service. Seeing Debbie’s facebook photos brought back even more memories. Nice to hear from you although under less than ideal circumstances.

I will be retiring from education this summer after 35 years.. … Are we all getting old or what? … Regards, Earl Paine

Response from Rosemary Zummo, choir friend in high school


I got the letter from Frances Gage last Wednesday and I got the link from Steve Stephenson last night. It is, indeed, a tragic situation. Thanks for gathering all the information together.
Rory Zummo

Former neighbor and friend now living in Texas

Thank you Patrick. I’m in Dallas and had known Debbie
since I was 10 yrs. old. I just thought about her
about a week ago thinking that I had not heard from
her recently – we had chatted during the holidays. I
was saddened to hear of Debbie’s passing and did
correspond back to the Gage family when I received a
letter last Friday.

You know, I was talking about Debbie last night in
which I described her as one of the most gifted
writer/conversationalist in terms of communicating
back and forth. She had such a talent for expressing

FYI – We were friends at Rittenhouse (Junior High), her grand
parents lived 2 doors from my Great Aunt whom I was
living with temporarily while parents were getting
ready to re-locate to PA. We were the only 2 girls in
a neighborhood of boys back then and had a blast
playing whiffle ball, Risk. Debbie and I often
reminisced about the good old days in the
neighborhood. We wound up not re-locating and I came
back to Texas my Jr. year.

I was in choir at NHS fall 68- spring 69 then we moved
back to Dallas – thank you so much for getting back to
me…..this breaks my heart…I knew her health was
failing and that she was homebound 24/7 but I guess I
didn’t realize how much worse she had gotten.


Galen McCormack

Debbie’s half brother Jack Tobin, Charlotte, NC

Yes I have been in touch with Fran and Marie, I am recovering from knee surgery and am not able to travel. I have been confined to my home in Charlotte since before Christmas, either awaiting surgery or recovering from the surgery. I was hoping I would be able to travel for this service, but the Docs have nixed the idea.


Jack Tobin (Debbie’s half brother)

From Leslie Kilgren in Philadelphia

Sadly, yes, we know. We are scheduled to play on Saturday.

I’m sure you saw the newspaper article, but if not, here’s the link:

Leslie M. Kilgren, Ph.D.

Also received Fran Gage’s letter

Thank you, I did receive a letter from Fran Gage about the death of Debbie. Thank you so much for your note. I did respond to Ms. Gage’s letter with some of my personal thoughts regarding Debbie.

Kindest best wishes to you.

Pastor Bill deHeyman

E-Mail to David Davies of the Philadelphia Daily News | from P Sheehy

Lost in the shadows, Debbie Moser makes a perfect victim of Philadelphia’s EMS woes

Dear David …

Only this weekend I received word out here in the hinterlands about Debbie Moser’s passing on New Year’s Day. I received a letter on Saturday from some friends of hers who were among the last people to see her alive. They found my name and address among her effects and wrote to me and other friends of Debbie’s so we would know.

If the city of Philadelphia was to choose among its citizens someone it could abuse with impunity without anyone caring a whole lot, they couldn’t have chosen better than Deborah (Moser) Payne. She’s perfect. She was disabled, a shut in. She had Debbie Moser circa 1970almost no family. She was raised by her grandparents who are now deceased. She did have some loyal friends but none who either could or would raise a fuss after the fact over her treatment. And, of course, living on disability, she had a roof over her head and not a lot more. Oh she was perfect.

Are you receiving mail bags full of letters to the editor? I don’t think so. Are the mayor and members of city council receiving angry phone calls and e-mails about Debbie’s treatment? Very unlikely. No, it was all very easy. She died in the back of one of the city’s meat wagons and they hauled what’s left of her off to the morgue. She leaves this life without so much as a wail or a whimper.

To be sure, Debbie made some very bad choices. She was having breathing problems on New Year’s Eve. She called some friends and they came over to find her taking oxygen, something she needed to do quite a lot. She didn’t want to go to the hospital (there had been so many hospitalizations in recent years). She told her friends she was OK and they should go home. She was suffering from a chronic disorder of her lymphatic system which caused her to retain fluids … to fill up like a water balloon. Doctors wanted her to lose weight. Instead she gained it. She wasn’t getting a lot of exercise, after all, so it wasn’t hard to over-eat.

Maybe the most remarkable thing about Debbie … or “Moser” as we called her in high school … was her cheerfulness. This girl had every strike against her. In those days her mother was in a medium security prison in upstate Pennsylvania. Her grandfather had had a few run-ins with the law over his real estate business. Her father was long gone. Even in those days she was having trouble with edema. You could push your thumb into her thigh and it would retain the impression for a few seconds.

She worked hard at transcending her troubles. She was active in a little evangelical Christian church down the street from her house in Norristown. She was a music major; played the trombone. She was in the marching band and played at all the football games. I met her because we were both in acapella choir. She sang alto to my baritone so we enjoyed being in the shadows while the director screeched at the sopranos and the tenors. I was the shy, quiet, former Catholic school boy. She decided she liked me, made sure I found that out, and pretty soon we were dating. When she was in college and I was living in San Francisco, she also decided it was time to break things off. And she married some guy named Payne in Richmond, Virginia. They later divorced.

We lost touch. I didn’t really want to talk with her because I was smarting over the breakup. Eventually I got married as well (30 years last June) and now have grown children. I think about all of the things I have that she never did: an extended family, good health, a decent house to live in, and an Emergency Medical Service that could be at my door in minutes should we dial 911. Never did I imagine there could be such a thing as suicide by 911. Philadelphia is such an innovative city. I wonder what they will come up with next?

Thank you (thank you, thank you) for the stories you’ve been writing. As someone said in another publication, probably nothing will be done until someone famous dies. As a poster child for EMS failures, Debbie isn’t famous. But she is fantastic.

Patrick Sheehy
Saint Paul, MN 55104

Reply by David Davies | Philadelphia Daily News


Thanks for writing. I made some limited efforts to find Debbie’s family when I did the original story, and I see now why I came up empty. I was also a little surprised I didn’t hear from any friends. I got one e-mail from a man who worked for her years ago, who had nothing nice to say.

I’m sorry for your loss. We’ll keep working on the ambulance issue. If you hear of anyone taking any legal or other action on her behalf in relation to the EMS response, I’d like to know.