Formerly resilient spirit hit his limit
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 07/24/08
He amazed doctors three years ago with his return to the rink so quickly after double-hip replacement surgery.
Five months, to be exact.
John William "Jack" Stein II's post-surgical recovery was so remarkable doctors at Resurgens Orthopedics at St. Joseph's brought him on board to advise hip surgery patients. To tell how he'd learned to walk —- and skate —- again.
"I've been playing hockey for 44 years," Stein told me in February 2005. "I wasn't going to give it up. . . . I slowly worked up to walking two miles a day, but I'd have tears in my eyes. The pain was brutal."
I wrote about Stein when he played forward in an ice hockey game to benefit Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta. He played on the metro Atlanta police team. The cops lost 7-6 to the firefighters. Stein —- a bear of a man at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds —- scored two goals.
In recent years, Stein's health soured. It caused him to retire from his job as a bike patrol officer with the Gwinnett County Police Department. He had been a cop 21 years, three of them in Greenwich, Conn., his hometown.
Last year, he had his feet operated on, but the surgery wasn't successful. Another surgery was required, something that didn't sit well with this former narcotics detective. Then, in January, he had a back operation, followed in April by hemorrhoid surgery.
"That one did him in," Becky Stein, his wife, told me. "It was an excruciatingly hard surgery, and he still wasn't recovered from it."
His cheerfulness, needless to say, nose-dived. He was sad because he had to quit police work. Sad because he had to quit skating. Becky Stein said the last time he skated was eight or nine months ago.
"We were just talking the other day, and I said, 'Jack, you can play hockey again,' " she said. " 'Just go back to public skating and try to build the muscles back up.' I knew he was depressed. Well, not depressed. Down is a better word."
He suffered from insomnia and took to sleeping in the basement. It was darker there, and the morning light didn't crack through so early. It's where he retired Friday night.
Saturday morning, Becky Stein woke up first. She tip-toed around their Lawrenceville house so as not to wake Jack. Time passed. The former high school All-American and semi-pro, 51, still hadn't come upstairs.
So Becky Stein went downstairs. Her husband of 16 years had committed suicide.
On Wednesday, a funeral Mass was held at the Catholic Church of Saint Monica in Duluth. Attendance was huge, what you'd expect for someone who loved police work, pets and playing sports. Local police officers, as well as those from nearby communities, paid their respects alongside family and friends. So did the Badie Tour.
Johan Moeller Jensen of Suwanee couldn't attend his friend's funeral because he's on vacation in Denmark. He used to play forward alongside Jack for a Duluth hockey team.
"Jack was our oldest player, but what he didn't have in his legs anymore, he had in his understanding of the game," Jensen wrote in an e-mail. "We would often joke with the younger players that they should look for Jack out on the ice, then just sit back and watch and learn.
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