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Help Still Offered Homeless Hero Despite Revelations About Past

May 28, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ A man hailed as a hero for saving a family from their burning building has acknowledged lying when he told people afterward that he was a Vietnam veteran and that he had only a minor criminal record.

Some of the people helping him say it doesn’t matter.

Offers of aid have poured in for Rikka Pash, 42, since news accounts of his saving a mother and her six young children from their burning apartment building a week ago, according to a social worker and his employer.

Pash lied when he told reporters after the fire that he was a Vietnam veteran and that he had served only one year in prison for cashing a Social Security check illegally, according to a published report.

In truth, Pash admitted he never joined the Army as he said, and admitted he had served several years in prison on violations ranging from auto theft to parole violations, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday.

Pash could not be reached for comment. His employer said he was still recuperating from a gash suffered in the fire and he was not at a hotel that offered him lodging Friday afternoon, the manager said.

Joanne Parker, a social worker who has been helping Pash through the Safer Foundation, a non-profit group that assists ex-offenders, said money sent to her by a veterans group would be returned.

Ronald Podeszwa, Pash’s boss at Deluxe Golf Repair Shop, said he would also return checks to their senders, but the situation would not endanger Pash’s employment there.

Both said they would continue to help Pash.

The fire consumed all of Pash’s belongings and about $150 he had saved, Pash and Miss Parker said earlier this week.

Hotel Lincoln on the city’s North Side has offered him a place to stay for a week or two, and the new revelations will not prompt withdrawal of the offer, said Manager Dede Bennett.

″The owner of the hotel was already aware of this,″ Mrs. Bennett said. ″He was just trying to help someone who’s trying to change his life.″

Pash told the Sun-Times Thursday he does not want money and that people who want contributions returned to them at the hotel or the foundation.

″I have a place to live,″ he said. ″I’m trying to leave my past behind me, and to go forward in life. I want to thank people for all their willingness to help me.″

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