New doctor’s death leaves area shaken


First Posted: 5/31/2013

A community morns. Family and friends remember.

Jennifer Sidari, a graduate in the first class of The Commonwealth Medical College who had been named a medical doctor only a few weeks earlier, died Wednesday at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, the same hospital where she was beginning her residency.

Sidari, a 5-foot, bright, enthusiastic, upbeat, 26-year old, died surrounded by the people who meant the most to her.

The Sidari family, of West Pittston, had hung a huge banner from the front porch of their home congratulating Jennifer on her becoming a physician. And now, many family and friends have gathered over the last few days on the same porch joining her father Pete, mom Patty, brother Peter, sister Vicky, and boyfriend John Brunza in saying farewell. There will be a public viewing today at St. Barbara Parish Center, Exeter, and a funeral Mass Monday morning at Corpus Christi Parish at Immaculate Conception Church in West Pittston.

Sidari had recently returned from a trip to Haiti, and the family spent a lot of time last week talking about her adventures there. It is unclear what caused Sidari’s untimely death, but her brother, Pete, said it’s important to know she passed peacefully with her family by her side.

Her father, Peter Sidari, said his daughter made her mark during the medical-aid trip.

Many children Jennifer Sidari worked with there needed more than medical care, they needed someone to make them feel loved. Some children carried mites, and the other doctors hesitated to get close. Sidari didn’t think twice, and photos from the trip show how committed to the cause she was, hugging the children and reaching them at their level.

Sidari’s boyfriend, John Brunza, remembered her return and his surprise that she had left almost everything behind. Sidari felt the Haitians needed her clothes and belongings more than she did, Brunza said.

Sidari’s signature was her intoxicating smile and her long, thick red hair — many would agree she could have passed for Julia Roberts’ younger sister, friends said.

But that was on the outside.

On the inside, Jennifer had a big heard, friends and family said. She knew that she wanted to help people and the best way to do that was to become a physician.

Longtime friend and 2005 Wyoming Area classmate, Amanda Panuski, after finding out her friend was in the hospital, drove to be with Sidari and her family in Danville.

“I feel like Jen was just at the starting point of her life and it was taken from her and it isn’t fair,” Panuski said. “I have to remember she is now somewhere greater than anything here on earth and for that we should celebrate.”

“It’s hard for me to think of a memory in elementary school or high school and not think of Jen,” Panuski continued. “She was my best friend. We were inseparable. School, work, sleepovers, football games, hockey games, shopping, birthday parties, coffee shop talks. We did everything together and there are so, so many pictures of us! We always said we were ‘on a different plane,’ and we saw the world a different way.”

Panuski said Sidari was extraordinary.

“Jen was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” Panuski said. “She was fearless and free and a huge inspiration to me. I can’t believe she will not be here to grow old with me. I feel honored and privileged to have been there during her last moments here on this Earth and there is no doubt in my mind that our friendship lives on in spirit. Our bond will never break. Even though I may walk the rest of this journey without her physically by my side, I know our souls are connected in a way that transcends all time.”

“My Little” as Kelley Mercavitch, a Wyoming Area 2005 classmate, often referred to Jen with both having red hair. Jen, of course, called Kelley her “Big.” “We met at volleyball and found our personalities matched, and we were both gingers. After about the 10th person asked us if we were sisters, I started calling her my little, and me, her big.”

“Jen was the most genuine, sincere person I’ve ever known,” said Kelley. “She had a heart of gold and a smile to match and she always wore that smile. She cared about everyone and everything. Jen exuded happiness and it infected everyone she came into contact with. According to Mercavitch, Jennifer wasn’t afraid of anything and had so much determination.

Mercavitch added, “When I’d go through a rough time, I’d call her. We’d stay on the phone for hours and by the time we were done I felt I could defeat anything that came against me. She was silly, funny, smart, creative, inquisitive, gorgeous, happy, loving and caring. Jen held no animosity towards anyone.”

Eileen Palmer, a retired Wyoming Area chemistry teacher, knew Jen very well through her academic achievements.

“A shining Wyoming Area star has left us far too soon,” stated Palmer. “Jen was an amazing bundle of energy with a luminous smile and an always sunny disposition. She was absolutely beaming when she was interviewed for TV after her graduation from TCMC. It was my privilege to have taught her and I will forever treasure that Dr. Jennifer Sidari was a part of my life.”

Wyoming Area Secondary Center Principal Vito Quaglia remembers Jennifer as a standout individual.

“She was such a positive, selfless kid even when she was here at Wyoming Area, she had such an infectious personality. She was always smiling; she was always looking to help other students. Jen was a tremendous leader by example when it came to whatever she was doing… academically, extra circularly, athletically. She was just a standout person and a person if you met her once or a million times, you would not forget her.”

Anne Wall was another educator that knew Jen so well.

“There are so many wonderful things that can be said about Jen, but what I remember most is the incredible friendliness she always showed to others. Her enthusiasm for life was uplifting to all who were lucky enough to have known her. She will be greatly missed by the entire Wyoming Area community.”

“She lived life to the fullest, with so much passion and optimism,” said high school classmate Lindsey Sabol. “We can all learn from her short, yet extremely full life. It breaks my heart that she worked so hard her entire life and passed away right after she graduated. She had so much ahead of her. It doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t feel like someone who was that big of a part of my life could just be gone. We shared so much.”

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