Harrell Funeral Home of Austin
4435 Frontier Trail
Austin, TX 78745
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On Friday, June 2nd, Erika Marie Stinebaugh asserted her final act of fierce independence. After experiencing what she described as a shock of pain and wisdom while drinking her coffee, she immediately determined she was done with this life. In ty... Read More
On Friday, June 2nd, Erika Marie Stinebaugh asserted her final act of fierce independence. After experiencing what she described as a shock of pain and wisdom while drinking her coffee, she immediately determined she was done with this life. In typical, practical, German form, she hopped in bed and decided she would not eat or drink any longer. When her adoring family tearfully gathered around her, she said goodbye and insisted on doing it "her way," often singing a bit of the Frank Sinatra song. She spent the remaining day cracking (often inappropriate) jokes and proudly asserting she had paid all of her bills right after her Friday revelation. Her final request to her grandson, Mark, was to clean her porch - the rest of her house was immaculate, as always. She died Tuesday morning, June 7th, without ever being a burden to anyone gathered at her side. She would be so pleased to know how easy she made it for her loved ones, and it was their greatest joy to see her live out her fondest wish: to die in her own home on her own terms.
Erika was born on April 28, 1930, in Dreiecheinhain, Germany, the eighth of fifteen children of Anton and Suzanne Graf. She came into the world with her twin brother, Erik. While her children grew up believing a large family was the cultural norm in the 1930s, she ultimately revealed that her family was, in fact, the "village freaks." She married Garry Stinebaugh in 1962, who then brought her to America. After various military assignments, they retired in Austin, Texas, and she spent her remaining days there. When Garry was unable to care for himself, she devoted herself to his care. Even when he had to move to a nursing home, she went to care for him daily, despite never having learned to drive.
When Garry passed in 2000, she found herself relieved of caregiving duties and free to live her life as she wished. The first thing she did was go out and get a few tattoos. Sure, she was seventy, but there was no one around to tell her what to do. She spent her subsequent years hopping on the city bus to volunteer at the Austin Public Library and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. She was a generous and incredibly considerate soul, crocheting afghans, remembering every birthday, and pressing twenty dollar tips into the hands of the garbagemen. Throughout the last two decades of her life, she got to do what she loved most, voraciously read books and visit with people she found interesting. What she loved the most, though, were visits and phone calls with her five grandchildren. She spoke about them endlessly, but more because of their character than their achievements. As a no-nonsense German, she was never terribly impressed with their achievements; she was far more concerned with whether they were good humans. They loved each other fiercely.
Erika is preceded in death by her twin brother, Erik, who died at seventeen, sons Ralph and Walter, husband, Garry, and all but three of her siblings. She is survived by her daughter Jennie and husband Ghassan Fanous, and their children, Erika, Luke, Mark, John Paul, and Jude. She also had an amazing cadre of people from diverse walks of life who counted her as a dear friend. Words could not express our gratitude to Magnolia Hospice, especially her nurse Caitlin, for their incredible kindness, compassion, and dedication to her dignity.
There will be a private family burial and no formal service. Erika was an incredibly practical person, and she would haunt us if she knew we spent a bunch of her money on a funeral and that people sent flowers that died. If you feel compelled to make a remembrance, please contribute to the Austin Animal Center. In her lifetime, she loved two dogs of her own and numerous grand-dogs and a great grand-dog, as well as too many cats for us to recall.
One of the most poignant things she said in her final days was that her only regret was that there were so many books left to read. She loved the people around her completely, so there was no regret in having more love to give. If nothing else, read a book in her honor. We know she would recommend, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."
Family and friends are coming together online to create a special keepsake. Every memory left on the online obituary will be automatically included in this book.
We encourage you to share your most beloved memories of Erika here, so that the family and other loved ones can always see it. You can upload cherished photographs, or share your favorite stories, and can even comment on those shared by others.
PLEASE NOTE: The reproduction of any copyrighted images is forbidden without express written permission from the copyright holder. We reserve the right to delete, without warning or notice, any image in violation of any copyright laws.
By subscribing to email updates, you will receive two daily updates containing all new stories, photos, condolences, and more. You will also receive a one-time email, one week prior to the anniversary of death. The email will only serve as a reminder should you choose to connect with the family at what will no doubt be a difficult time.
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