TROY — Right now, Zack, Kaitie and Emily Stoeckmann should be concerned about the types of things about which all teenagers worry.
Zack, 19, should be thinking about his job at Basil’s on Market and saving up enough money to go to college. His younger sisters — Kaitie, 17, and Emily, 16 — should be worried about homework, homecoming and hanging out with their friends.
Instead, the three siblings have spent the past week planning their second funeral for a parent in the last 18 months.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Zack said. “It’s one of those things you don’t think about until it happens to you. I always thought they’d see me with a job and family and their grandkids.”
On March 1, 2016, their mother Kristin Stoeckmann was killed in a crash involving a car and the motorcycle on which she was a passenger. She was 45 years old. Last Friday, Aug. 25, their father Rick Stoeckmann, 55, passed away unexpectedly in their home. His two daughters discovered him unresponsive in his bed that day.
“It’s been hard,” said Kaitie, a senior at Troy High School. “It’s like we always have to find the new normal.”
The three of them have been taken in by their uncle and aunt, Mark and Michele Deeter and will be living with them. While that’s added some much-needed stability to their lives, however, many questions about their future still remain. The Deeters live in the Miami East school district and want to keep their nieces at Troy High School in hopes of providing some sense of normalcy in their lives. Zack had been living in downtown Troy in his father’s home and was able to walk to work at Basil’s.
“I remember when I was in the seventh or eighth grade, my Aunt Michele had told me that if anything ever happened to my mom and dad, she wouldn’t hesitate having us come live with her,” Zack said.
With the relocation, Michele Deeter — who has a daughter who is married and a son who is junior at Ohio University — said she’s hoping the community can help raise the money to purchase a vehicle or vehicles for the children so they can drive themselves to school and work. A Go Fund Me page has been set up on the teens’ behalf at www.gofundme.com/fund-for-the-stoeckmann-children
“These are good kids who need a break,” Deeter said. “Life has been so hard for them.”
Even before their parents passed away so tragically, things had never been easy for the Stoeckmann family. Their father lost his job in 2015 and was homeless for about a month, Zack said. Once he had been able to establish a residence, all three children had moved in with him shortly before their mother passed away. Deeter — Kristin Stoeckmann’s sister — said extended family members often had to help out making sure the children had what they needed, often providing them clothing and gifts at Christmas.
Despite those hardships, all three excelled in the classroom. Zack graduated from Troy in 2016, just months after their mother passed away. He had been planning on saving his money working at Basil’s to attend college.
“I haven’t nailed down what I want to do, but I think I want to write books and share my experiences with people who may be going through similar things as me,” Zack said.
Both of his sisters have grade point averages in the 3.5 to 4.0 range. Kaitie said she wants to go to school and study business and sociology, while her little sister, a sophomore at Troy, has wide-ranging plans for her future.
“I want to do everything,” Emily said. “That’s my problem. I don’t want to be stuck doing one thing. I want to travel the world.”
Before all of that, however, the Stoeckmann children have been mourning their second tragic loss of a parent and planning their second funeral in less than two years.
“Unfortunately, they are familiar with what to do,” Deeter said. “They’ve really taken an active role in planning the funeral. The people at the funeral home said they’ve seen adults who haven’t been able to handle this as well as they have. Unfortunately, they are pros at it. It’s so sad that they know what to do.”
All three said that while they’ve been able to hold things together — and lean on one another — it hasn’t been easy.
“Every graduation, every performance, every milestone — they won’t be there to see,” Emily said. “I wish I had spent more time with them. I wish I had talked to them more.”
“Fortunately we have a huge family, so we are never alone,” Kaitie added.
The Stoeckmanns said they did have to give three of their pets — a dog named Pluto, one cat named Will Smith and another cat named Ava — to the Miami County Animal Shelter. They are hoping someone will adopt the pets and give them a good home. So far, they said, they’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support both in person and on the Go Fund Me page.
“I’ve got a lot of text messages from my friends saying how sorry they are,” Kaitie said. “Them reaching out to me has been very comforting to know they care.”
So far, more than $2,000 has been raised on the Go Fund Me website. The goal is to raise $20,000.
“Thank you,” Emily said to those who already have donated. “I really don’t know what else to say. Thank you.”
Reach David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong