By Josh Hatcher
Sometimes you discover you’ve locked a few feelings
away, and they’ll creep up so that you have to
deal with them. This week, news of the release of
John Rigas from federal prison stirred up a few of those
feelings for me.
In 1999, I started working for Adelphia in the Long
Distance provisioning department. Remember long distance?
It was a service you used to have to pay for by
My new wife and I had moved back to Potter
County after we discovered we were going to have
twins, and Adelphia was my first full-time job. When
the company declared bankruptcy in 2001, many of us
knew that our jobs were doomed. Our department was
cut in 2002, and I found myself laid off, and confused. I
bounced around for a couple years before finding fulltime
To be honest, I hated the Adelphia job. So losing it
was in reality one of the best things that ever happened
to me. Despite the fact I’ve looked at the loss of that job
as a good thing over the years, I’ve struggled with how
I felt about Adelphia, and the Rigas family.
Part of me has always respected John Rigas for the
good things he did for Coudersport while he was at the
helm of his empire. If there was a need, he met it. He
viewed his wealth as a responsibility to put others to
work, and to help those in need.
Part of me, though, has been angry for the financial
ruin that worked it’s way through the lives of many
of my former co-workers and friends in Coudersport
and the surrounding communities. I was a little bitter
for the two years of struggle my own family endured,
while barely able to pay our rent and living expenses.
I watched a vibrant community grow dormant, and I
watched people lose their houses and their careers.
Whether Rigas is to blame is hard for me to say.
According to the court, he’s guilty of mismanaging his
publicly traded company’s wealth, and thus guilty and
culpable in the eyes of the law. According to his family,
an injustice was done when their father was incarcerated,
and when his appeal was struck down.
Whether he was actually guilty isn’t up for me to
decide, that’s why we have courts to make that declaration.
This summer, I was asked to produce a video for the
memorial service of Doris Rigas, John’s late wife. That
video was meant to allow John and Timothy Rigas the
opportunity to see the service. For me, it was moving,
and as I spent weeks editing the footage, I watched
as the Rigas family wept and laughed as they celebrated
memories of their matriarch. I watched as they
expressed genuine frustration with the justice system
as it related to the conviction and incarceration of their
This summer, while watching a beautiful memorial
service for a woman I barely knew, I was forced to reconcile
something. I saw that part of me was bitter. I saw
that part of me was holding on to this tiny little sliver
of anger. And much like a wooden sliver that gets stuck
under the skin, eventually, it has to come out. So I made
a choice. Whether or not John Rigas was to blame for
the hardship I went through — I had to forgive him.
My forgiveness probably doesn’t matter to anyone.
It’s not as though anyone at Adelphia knew that their
actions were going to affect me. It’s not as though John
Rigas or his family even knew part of me was angry.
I just know that it felt awfully good to get that little
So, while there are a few out there who see Rigas’s
release as an act of injustice, I can honestly say, I can see
it as an act of compassion.
And an act of compassion is never a bad decision.
(Josh Hatcher is a contributor to the Olean Times Herald
and The Bradford Era.) Posted with permission.