Writing an obituary for a loved one is never an easy task. When Alex Walsh set out to write the obituary for her dad, Rick Stein, she decided to make it reflect his great sense of humor. Stein had been suffering from a rare form of cancer prior to his death and was being treated at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when he died.
Instead of going with a straightforward account of her father’s life and accomplishments, Walsh, a former television news writer, spun a fantastical tale about her dad’s many (fictional) adventures. The obituary that was originally published in Delaware Online, has since gone viral, capturing the attention of the internet for its originality and Walsh’s obvious affection for her dad.
Walsh began by writing that her father was presumed dead when his single-engine plane, the Northrup, went missing over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rehoboth Beach. Walsh wrote her father had escaped the hospital to take his ill-fated flight.
“Hospital spokesman Walter Heisenberg says doctors from Stein’s surgical team went to visit him on rounds when they discovered his room was empty,” she wrote. “Security footage shows Stein leaving the building at approximately 3:30 Thursday afternoon, but then the video feed mysteriously cuts off. Authorities say they believe Stein took an Uber to the Philadelphia airport where they assume he somehow gained access to the aircraft.”
Walsh then went onto describe her dad as a man of mystery, whose occupation no one seemed could quite pin down. She cited different family members as believing Stein to be a restaurant owner, a jeweler, an oriental rug dealer, a cartoonist, a television critic, a political satirist, a sports columnist, a YouTube sensation and a trail guide at Rocky Mountain National Park, among several other professions.
Near the end of the obituary, Walsh addressed her stepmom, Susan Stein, who she describes as her dad’s “wife and constant companion for the past 14 years.”
“Detectives say they were unable to interview Mrs. Stein, however neighbors say they witnessed her leaving the home the couple shared wearing dark sunglasses and a fedora, loading multiple suitcases into her car,” she wrote. “FAA records show she purchased a pair of one-way tickets to Rome which was Mr. Stein’s favorite city. An anonymous source with the airline reports the name used to book the other ticket was Juan Morefore DeRoad, which, according to the FBI, was an alias Stein used for many years.”
At this point in the obituary, Walsh reveals the truth.
“That is one story,” she wrote. “Another story is that Rick never left the hospital and died peacefully with his wife and his daughter holding tightly to his hands.”
She then invited people to choose whichever version they prefer or to share their own story about her dad at his memorial service on November 9.
Walsh chose to honor her dad with this madcap story to pay tribute to his love for comedy. He was a big fan of “Monty Python,” Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.
“With his sense of humor and personality, it seemed the best way to entertain his friends,” Walsh told the Washington Post.
What an awesome tribute! We’re sending our deepest condolences to Stein’s family as they mourn their loss of this clearly dynamic man.