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Archive for Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Troubled man remembered for fighting spirit, caring heart

November 2, 2005

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Jason Stark may have died homeless and broke, but he never quit trying to improve his life.

"You did the best you could, Jason. You did the best you could with what you had - with what God gave you, my baby," Mary Freeman said to her 35-year-old son as his body lay Tuesday at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home in Lawrence.

Stark returned to Lawrence from Dodge City only a few days before he died on Sunday at the Lawrence Community Shelter. He had moved to Dodge City in early September and enrolled at Dodge City Community College.

"I'd been praying for God to bring my son back home to me. I'm not happy about how it happened, but I am happy that he made it home," Freeman said.

Stark, a certified nursing assistant and home health care aide, had relocated to Dodge City to pursue his goal of becoming an emergency medical technician.

"He liked caring for people," Freeman said.

"He was very benevolent."

Stark worked at various nursing homes in the Lawrence area, including Brandon Woods Retirement Community and Lakeview Manor.

In this file photo, Jason Stark sits in his yard in east Lawrence, in December 2003. Stark died Sunday at the age of 35.

In this file photo, Jason Stark sits in his yard in east Lawrence, in December 2003. Stark died Sunday at the age of 35.

Despite his education and work history, Stark was often unemployed and homeless. He took prescription drugs to control his schizophrenia and had battled alcoholism in the past.

"He was a hard worker and worked often," Freeman said, "but once he saved up enough money, he would go back to living on the street."

The Lawrence Journal-World interviewed Stark on Dec. 28, 2003, pending the loss of cash assistance he received from the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

With the help of Rob Tabor, benefits attorney at Independence Inc. in Lawrence, Stark eventually qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Kelly Henly, case manager at the Lawrence Community Shelter, said she knew Stark to be a kind but troubled man.

"I always found him to be very kind in general, but someone who struggled with some personal issues," she said. "He seemed to be on top of his treatment goals."

Henly was one of the last people to talk to Stark before his death.

"He just declined any help when I spoke with him on Saturday," she said. "He wasn't himself. He wasn't the Jason I was used to - that I had known before."

Before Stark left Lawrence, he was well known and liked in the Lawrence homeless community.

"He was very talkative and outgoing. He seemed very interested in improving his own condition," said David Beust, an acquaintance.

Though Stark declined help near the end, he spent his life striving to help others while trying to hold his own life together.

"I knew he was smart, but I don't know if he knew how to help himself," Freeman said.

Stark withdrew from classes at Dodge City Community College before he came back to Lawrence but, like the cause of his death, his reasons for returning remain unknown.

Comments

Euphrosyne 8 years, 5 months ago

What I neglected to write above was that all of these memories were before any visible signs of metal illness or addiction. He was just a good kid. I moved away from up north and didn't bother to stay in touch with Jason and had no idea he was living in Lawrence. I have not even thought about that moment of time in the past - before today. And it wasn't until I saw his obituary picture that I even recognized him at all. I had to go back and read the article several times. I still can't believe it. And I can't help but wonder how many times in the past years of my living in Lawrence that I walked past him on the street and didn't even bother to look.

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Euphrosyne 8 years, 5 months ago

I knew Jason from our common connection to northeast Kansas. His Grandparents on his Fathers side lived a few houses down from my Grandparents in Powahattan. And his Mothers people were from Doniphan County. Highland Community College allowed high school students to take summer classes for college credit. I met Jason in a summer speech class. Jason was a well-dressed, well-mannered and gentle kid. He was so nice that even though he looked younger than the rest of us he seemed to be older. I don't remember much from that class in 1987 except a speech that Jason gave about the care and cultivation of fruit trees. I remember being rather interested. Later that summer after the class was over I became quite ill and had to hospitalized. Jason volunteered at the Hiawatha hospital and would stop in to visit me quite often. I was unable to eat because my throat was almost swollen shut but Jason made sure to bring me popsicles from the cafeteria. I was in the hospital over the 4th of July and because of the big festivities my family kind of forgot me that day but not Jason, he came in and told me all that was happening. What a shock it was to see the news this morning to find that this sweet man had suffered so. And let me warn you if this can happen to Jason who didn't have a harsh word or unkindness of any kind IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. There, before the grace of God go I.

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Marion Lynn 8 years, 5 months ago

I knew Jason from downtown and will miss him.

Every time that we spoke he was bouyant and full of expressions of hope for the future and his plans which he would tell us about until he was certain that we had a very good understanding of them.

His death and the circumstances of it speak eloquently of the plight of the mentally ill in our society and more specifically, in Lawrence.

Perhaps from his death will come the awareness that we spend far too much of our tax revenue in the wrong places.

I do not have the solution to the problem of the homeless and mentally ill but the death of Jason will hopefully get some wheels turning in the minds of those who can help the situation.

I remember one day when Jason was in the shop just shooting the breeze with us; a very long and serious breeze when Jason had something on his mind!

A customer entered and after Jason left the customer asked why we put up with such a crazy.

Not knowing what to say, I replied, "He's OK, he's not crazy, he's just a bit different and he's my friend."

Jason was not frightened of Kiki and Lizzie who would give him licks and kisses of affection when he visited.

Jason became an expert at the art of "giving tummy" to the Girl Dogs who would know when he was having a bad day and jump up on him to lick his face.

Jason will be missed by all who knew him.

I am a better person for having known him.

Thanks.

Marion.

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concerned_citizen 8 years, 5 months ago

He struggled and struggled. He never gave up trying to get better. Even when he was doing his worst he was always nice and polite. His suffering has ended. There are people that knew him before he got sick and how caring and nice he was, even to a fault. He will be missed by those who knew him. R.I.P.

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dontlikecoffee 8 years, 5 months ago

What I'd like to know is why a Lawrence Community Shelter employee believes that it's ok to comment publicly about a guest just because he has died. Not only does this breaking of confidentiality seem unethical, but, I would think that it would also create trust issues for other guests.

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Ragingbear 8 years, 5 months ago

I was suprised at seeing his death announced. Although this guy had problems that really interfeared with his ability to interact with society, he was always nice, and he was indeed constantly trying to rebuild his life. Unfortunately, he never really came close to having his mental condition under control. Although I have seen that improve over the years as well.

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bennyoates 8 years, 5 months ago

Rest in peace, Mr. Stark. My condolences to Mary Freeman.

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