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The mysterious obituary of a Philadelphia cancer patient


From left, Alex Walsh, Drake Walsh, Sam Walsh, Evangeline Walsh and Rick Stein in May 2017. (Alex Walsh)

It’s a tale of two stories.

A Philadelphia cancer patient’s mysterious obituary — written by his daughter — is peppered with inside jokes and “Seinfeld” references.

Rick Stein, 71, had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer known as cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer), his daughter Alex Walsh told Delaware Online.

Walsh, who said she wasn’t prepared for her father’s sudden death, said he underwent surgery, but worsened and died soon after.

Walsh writes, in the obituary which has been shared on Facebook, of how her father escaped the hospital where he was receiving treatment, flew a plane and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean — but describes a totally different scenario toward the end.

“You can choose which version you want to believe,” Walsh added.

The obituary starts out by saying Stein was “reported missing and presumed dead on September 27, 2018 when investigators say the single-engine plane he was piloting, The Northrop, suddenly lost communication with air traffic control and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rehoboth Beach. Philadelphia police confirm Stein had been a patient at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he was being treated for a rare form of cancer.”

It continues, "Hospital spokesman Walter Heisenberg says doctors from Stein’s surgical team went to visit him on rounds when they discovered his room was empty. 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.

“’The sea was angry that day,’ said NTSB lead investigator Greg Fields in a press conference. ‘We have no idea where Mr. Stein may be, but any hope for a rescue is unlikely.”

The famous line from a “Seinfeld” episode refers to when George Constanza said, “The sea was angry that day, my friends — like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”

Walsh, a journalist who formerly worked for NBC News in Washington, D.C., wanted to capture her father’s sense of humor in the obituary.

“He owned restaurants in Boulder, Colorado and knew every answer on Jeopardy. He did the New York Times crossword in pen. I talked to him that day and he told me he was going out to get some grappa. All he ever wanted was a glass of grappa,” she wrote.

After writing about how her family viewed her father, she finally revealed that it was just a story.

The other — and true — story of Stein’s death reads: “Rick never left the hospital and died peacefully with his wife and his daughter holding tightly to his hands.”

As for her father’s real job, Rick and his brother Jim brought the family business Stuart Kingston Galleries to Wilmington, Delaware.

"No words could ever do him justice," Walsh said. "But we did our best to come close."

The full obituary can be read here.