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Stieben's family looks to honor his legacy

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A big part of LaVerne Stieben's life was helping others, especially children.

That giving spirit will be carried on in honor of Stieben's generosity in the form of two memorials.

Stieben, 61, died Sunday after he suffered a heart attack in late October while vacationing in Cancun. He later was transferred to a Houston hospital, where he died of complications.

His funeral services have been set for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph Church. Visitation will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, also at St. Joseph Church, with a vigil at 7:30 p.m. A full obituary can be found on page A7.

In talking about possible memorials for their husband and father, it didn't take Dorothy Stieben and her children long to come up with ideas.

"He started the Booster Club giveaway at TMP years ago," his wife of 38 years said. "And he loved being involved with youth hunting."

So memorials are suggested to either the TMP Booster Club or the LaVerne Stieben Memorial Fund, to be used for youth pheasant hunts.

There couldn't have been a better way to honor his friend and hunting buddy, said Mike Flax, who also worked with Stieben, who was part owner of Bieker Insurance Agency.

"He just really enjoyed helping kids," Flax said. "And he was the king of fundraisers; he really enjoyed fundraising."

Flax and Stieben also were members of the Optimist Club together. Longtime Optimist Gary Wentling said he was "honored to have known" Stieben.

"He was very enthusiastic about the club and wanted to build the membership," Wentling said. "Whatever project it was we were doing, he always wanted to help. He was a real do-er."

With that same giving attitude in mind, Dorothy wants to give others a few tips while traveling abroad -- to make sure to have written proof of health insurance, which includes travel insurance for an air ambulance, and to be aware that other countries don't have the same medical services as the United States.

After Stieben became ill in a Cancun hotel, he and his wife went to a hospital there, only to find out the nearest cardiologist was six hours away.

Then, they learned they needed a letter of guarantee of their health insurance before proper procedures could be taken.

"We would really like people to be aware of some of those things, something we had never thought about," she said.

Dorothy said she knows with the holidays approaching, it will be hard for the family, especially for their two grandsons, 9-year-old Blake Stieben and 5-year-old Gunner Weigel. And, another grandson is on the way. One of the Stiebens' twin daughters and her husband, Ashley and T.J. Lamb from Ness City, are expecting their first child in February.

"He won't be able to meet his new grandson," Dorothy said of her husband. "But he will be watching over them, over all of us."

And, she added, she and her children were able to give their husband and father one of his best Christmas gifts ever. Stieben was able to communicate with his family for a few days last week before some of his organs started shutting down and he was placed in a medically induced coma. He never came out of the coma.

"In our (Catholic) faith, the last rites is one of our sacraments," Dorothy said. "We were able to give him the last rites. My son was there with me, and our daughters joined us via telephone. That was very, very special."