Update Feb. 12: The Modglin family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for Sheila’s medical costs. Mailed checks are also being accepted; see details below.

Longtime Dirty Franks bartender and founder of Upper Darby’s Sunshine Arts community center Sheila Modglin was severely injured in a car accident late Thursday night on Lincoln Drive.

As of Sunday afternoon, Modglin was under care at Einstein Medical Center in a drug-induced coma.

According to her younger brother, Rick Modglin of South Philadelphia, the incident was not a hit and run, as had been previously assumed and widely spread via Sheila’s huge network of friends on social media.

Information gleaned so far — via taxi and EMS records as well as police reports — indicate Sheila left Dirty Franks after working during the busy Feb. 8 Eagles parade and got into a taxi at 10:07 p.m. headed to Mt. Airy, where she was dog sitting.

“For some reason that we don’t know yet,” Rick said, “she got out of the taxi around three blocks from the house.”

As Sheila was crossing Lincoln Drive at Cliveden Street, a driver slammed into her. Rick, who visited the scene, said he saw 40-foot skid marks at the location. Police reports relayed to him, he said, indicate the driver of the car was not going at an overly excessive speed.

Lincoln Drive is one of the most dangerous thoroughfares in Philadelphia. The high fatality rate on the curving strip has earned it the nickname “Dead Man’s Gulch.” In 2014, one intersection had the fifth-most car crashes in the city. The drive is notoriously unfriendly to pedestrians.

The site of the incident Credit: Rick Modglin

After the driver hit Sheila last Thursday, they reportedly got out and stayed with her until an ambulance came. The driver was the one who called EMS, Rick has been told. There were also several other witnesses who stopped and spoke with the police.

At around 10:45 p.m., Sheila was transported to Einstein’s emergency room, where doctors performed a crainiectomy — removing a bone flap from the skull — to relieve pressure on the brain.

“Head trauma was extensive,” Rick said. No other surgery has yet been undertaken to deal with broken bones or other bodily injury, he was told, because the first order of business is stabilizing the brain pressure. A further prognosis has not yet been issued.

Rick and the rest of his family didn’t even know about the accident until Friday afternoon, more than 12 hours after Sheila had been admitted. That they found out at all was due to a woman Rick referred to as “an angel.”

A nurse working on a separate floor apparently glimpsed the name “Sheila Modglin” on a surgery schedule and called Dirty Franks to alert the place Sheila has worked for the past three decades. Dirty Franks managers then alerted the Modglin family.

Debris at the scene of Sheila Modglin’s incident Credit: Rick Modglin

“I dropped everything and rushed to the hospital,” Rick said. “Thank goodness there was someone at the hospital who knew Sheila — but of course there was, because she knows everybody.”

In addition to the large network of friends she cultivated thanks to her bright and cheery demeanor behind the bar, Sheila was also a leader in the educational arts community. In 2004, she founded Sunshine Arts in Upper Darby. Over the past 14 years, the center offering neighborhod kids a place for education and personal growth has flourished — thanks in large part to Sheila’s dedication.

“She was the engine behind that thing,” said Rick. “She literally made it run. So we want to make sure it is right up there and running when she’s back. We can’t let that fail.”

Kat Lehmer, one of three artists-in-residence at Sunshine Arts, credited Sheila with creating a place that has helped many. “What she started here,” said Lehmer, “and what we all have put our souls into keeping going is a unique place for kids who really need extra love and direction in their lives.”

Fundraisers for Sunshine Arts will be organized by the center’s board. Interested parties can contact the board via the organization website.

Sheila Modglin at Dirty Franks on Feb. 8, 2018, a few hours before she was hit Credit: Courtesy of Rick Modglin

Separately, the Modglin family is accepting donations to help pay for Sheila’s recovery via a GoFundMe page.

Donations can also be mailed c/o Sheila’s sister at:

Kathy Kalafut
27 Papermill Rd.
Springfield, Pa. 19064

Checks should be made out to Kalafut as legal guardian (until Sheila is awake, the family will not have access to her bank accounts).

Friends who want to help in other ways or have questions can contact Rick Modglin via text at 610-639-0398, and should identify themselves when they send a message.

“I will try to get back to everyone,” Rick said. “Sheila had so many friends, all over this city. Everyone knows who she is.”

Danya Henninger was first editor and then editor/director of Billy Penn at WHYY from 2019 to 2023.