James Blair Stein Sr., 40, owner and operator of auto body repair business

March 30, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

James Blair Stein Sr., an auto body repairman whose illness occasioned an outpouring of community generosity, died of positive acute lymphocytic leukemia Tuesday at Carroll County General Hospital. The New Windsor resident was 40.

After the illness was diagnosed in 1999, he was forced to stop working and undergo lengthy chemotherapy treatments at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

For the past year, his picture has appeared on plastic donation jars on restaurant counters throughout Carroll County. Schools and service organizations held fund-raisers to pay his family's living expenses.

"My heart went out to him and his family. We never know when something like that could happen. ... You hope for the kindness of people," said Sharon Coleman, a shift manager at Pizza Hut in Taneytown who donated her Christmas bonus to Mr. Stein's family.

Mr. Stein had owned and operated Dent Magic, a mobile auto body repair business. Before his illness, he drove his Ford Bronco throughout Frederick and Carroll counties and made calls at auto dealerships.

"He was one of the best dent men I've ever seen," said Al Graybill, general manager of Crouse Ford's Hampstead operation. "I had a '94 Ford Probe - it was a clean little car, but the customer used to park under a walnut tree. I counted 150 dents in the roof. When Jim got through with it, you couldn't tell it ever had a dent."

Friends recalled Mr. Stein as a large man - he weighed 240 pounds - who spoke in a gentle voice. They said he often spoke of his children and happy family life.

"He could do a marvelous job," said Henry Lechner, a manager at Saturn of Frederick who lives in Braddock Heights. "He would take a door banged in a parking lot and repair the damage from the inside."

Earlier in his career, Mr. Stein owned a truck high-pressure-washing business and cleaned tractor-trailers throughout Carroll and Frederick counties.

Born in Olney, he was a 1978 graduate of Damascus High School.

Mr. Stein's illness necessitated numerous treatments at Johns Hopkins. He often stayed overnight at Hope Lodge on Greene Street in downtown Baltimore.

Mildred Doehrer, a retired Baltimore County elementary school teacher who lives in Finksburg, led a fund-raising campaign called the Jim Stein Foundation.

"My family did not go without anything it needed," said his wife, the former Stephanie L. Showalter. "It was a blessing to us that the community provided."

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Church of the Open Door, 550 Baltimore Blvd., Westminster, where he was a member and worked with church youth.

He also is survived by a daughter, Blaire E. Stein, and two sons, James B. Stein Jr. and Jacob R. Stein, all of New Windsor; his parents, Robert B. and Mary Pearson Stein of Taneytown; and a brother, Robert L. Stein of Walkersville.

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