February 14, 1946 - March 13, 2020
Thomas ("Tom") Stenger passed away on Friday, March 13, 2020. Tom succumbed to complications of dementia at the H.J. Heinz Campus of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. He was 74 years and one month old-far too young. He is survived by, among others, his wife, Christine ("Penny") Stenger (née O'Brien, now living in Pittsburgh); son, Allen Stenger (Washington, D.C.); daughter, Elizabeth ("Beth") Stenger and her partner, Jeremy Branson (Pittsburgh); sister, Mary Ann Pierson and her husband, Tres (Wheeling), and David ("Dave") Stenger and his wife, Stacy Keith (Annapolis, Maryland). With the current spread of covid-19, Tom's family has postponed his funeral. (They intend to hold a funeral mass over a memorial weekend in summer or fall 2020.) In these circumstances, Tom's family has decided to honor him with a lengthier obituary than might be commonplace. Tom was born in 1946 to Ralph and Gladys (née Kalkreuth) Stenger, of Carmel Road, Wheeling. Tom arrived on February 14 that year, a Valentine's Day baby. He was the third of five children, at least once Ralph and Gladys finally got around to creating Dave. (His two older siblings, Ralph ("Larry") and Richard ("Dick") Stenger, passed away in 2009 and 2018, respectively. Larry is survived by (among others) his wife, Lynne (now of Belleair Bluffs, Florida); Dick, by (among others) his wife, Pat (Waltham, Massachusetts).) The Stengers were members of St. Michael Church, just down the road. Tom, like his siblings, attended St. Michael School and Central Catholic High School (graduating with the latter's class of 1964). In 1968 he graduated from Wheeling College. Tom served as an officer in the Army during the Vietnam War, including a stint in-country, primarily in the area of Huế. Tom would tell you himself that he enlisted to beat the draft (he was fortunate not to suffer from bone spurs) and that, after his service, he was no fan of war. Tom returned to Vietnam with Allen as a tourist in 2013. It made Tom very happy to see that the Vietnamese people were faring as well as they were. After his service, Tom married Penny in 1972. The couple lived first in Wintersville, Ohio, but shortly thereafter settled in the Bello-Vedere Avenue neighborhood in Wheeling. Tom lived the greater part of his life in that home. He and Penny raised Allen (born 1978) and Beth (1980) there. The Bello-Vedere neighborhood, somewhat isolated from the center of town, was a unique and special place: Tom and his family became very close friends with their neighbors. The Stenger home was a place of many gatherings of family and friends and held many special memories for Tom. Tom's dad, Ralph, had founded what would become Stenger Business Systems, Inc., formerly of Chapline Street in Wheeling. "SBS" began by selling cash registers and typewriters. Soon the company focused on selling, leasing, and servicing copiers (never "Xerox machines"; SBS didn't sell Xerox). Gradually, Tom took the reins of SBS from Ralph. SBS was an Ohio Valley institution, proudly listing as customers many businesses, school districts, churches, and other places of worship. SBS employed as many as 30-40 residents of the Valley when Tom served as president of the company. Tom guided SBS through ups and downs. Copier manufacturers sometimes award high-performing affiliated retailers "business-and-pleasure" junkets to exotic locations. SBS received a number of these awards. Tom and Penny had the good fortune to tour Japan, sail the Mediterranean, attend a gathering with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. (Tom felt very blessed.) Tom was a kind man, a man of integrity. On a handful of occasions, Tom "required" an employee who had contributed to SBS's success to take the trip in his stead. Tom retired in 2010, and the SBS business was sold to the good folks at Hughes Office Equipment. One of the accomplishments of which Tom was most proud was his role (with Penny) in helping to start an Ohio Valley chapter for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). Tom was a compassionate, giving person. Having experienced the challenges of mental illness himself, he felt compelled to help others struggling with the same. For many years Tom and Penny ran weekly DBSA meetings. He was able to offer support to many people, some of whom had nowhere else to turn. Tom and Penny moved to Pittsburgh in 2014. They joined Our Lady of the Angels Parish, welcomed by Brother John Harvey. Around that time, Tom started to experience physical and mental challenges consistent with early-onset dementia. By 2018, the dementia had progressed to such an extent that Tom moved to a memory-care facility to receive continuous care. Last summer, after a further health setback, Tom moved to the VA Pittsburgh's Heinz Campus to receive hospice care. Over the final years of his life, the horrible condition that afflicted Tom robbed him of his ability to communicate easily. He was attended to by family and some of his oldest, dearest friends. It was no small joy to his visitors that Tom was able to remember them to the end. (If Beth asked Tom if Tom recalled who she was, occasionally Tom would say something to the effect of, "Well, duh!" and provide his daughter's name.) With his unexpected, laconic remarks and ever-present gratitude, Tom quickly became a staff favorite-or at least that's what the staff members were gracious enough to tell him and his family. It was a blessing that during his final months Tom rarely appeared to be frustrated or distressed by his condition. It is no mere coincidence that the care, attention, and humanity of the staff at the VA Pittsburgh's Heinz Campus were simply extraordinary. Tom Stenger was a son, sibling, friend, church-goer, Eagle Scout, soldier, husband, father, small business leader, hobby-carpenter, Penguins supporter, volunteer. He was quick to share a smile. He had a goofy side. He was a man of faith. Most importantly, he was a decent human being who sought to make the world a better place while he occupied it. He will be dearly missed. In lieu of sending flowers, please consider making a donation in memory of Tom to either the Dementia Society of America or the Alzheimer's Association. And do consider logging onto thomasmsmithfh.com and sharing a note with Tom's family.
Thomas ("Tom") Stenger passed away on Friday, March 13, 2020. Tom succumbed to complications of dementia at the H.J. Heinz Campus of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. He was 74 years and one month old-far too young. He is survived by,... View Obituary & Service Information
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