“Not too many Jim Stoughs” – Funeral director, community volunteer remembered

Published 6:58 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

You didn’t have to know the late Jim Stough well to know what a nice guy he was, according to many in Austin — his friendliness was always his calling card.

Stough, they say, was unfailingly kind, caring and community-minded. Stough died Sunday, Feb. 24, following a short illness.

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Many knew Stough as one of the directors at Worlein Funeral Homes in Austin, a position he held since 2000. Others knew him through his many volunteer hours as an Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassador – on hand to welcome a new business, or help with the line-up of the Freedom Fest Parade.  Or, he was a familiar face seen at activities as a member of the Noon Lions Club.

Paul Worlein said he and his staff are trying to adjust to Stough’s death.

“I felt the loss of a friend first, then a co-worker,” Worlein said, adding that the entire staff at Worlein felt as he did.

James William Stough, 62

Worlein said he first met Stough at a meeting of funeral directors in Faribault. At the time, Worlein was looking for additional directors at the funeral home. Stough then applied for the Worlein position.

“We hit it off from the beginning,” he said, adding that Stough had both the skills and the personality suited to the position.

“I was immediately impressed – and he came highly recommended. He was friendly, easy-going – and a very good worker,” Worlein said. “Whenever I left for vacation, I always knew that Jim would take care of things; I never had to check in. I always felt very comfortable in his abilities.”

Mary Kittelson, community services director at Worlein, shared an office with Stough for many years.

“He taught me so many things, about funeral services, working with families, community involvement,” she said. “He was a great mentor.”

She also knew firsthand how much he loved his family and how excited he would get when trips to see his family were planned.

“He loved those family outings,” she said.

Worlein said the funeral home staff will plant a tree, with a plaque, in Stough’s memory on the funeral home property on June 6 – Stough’s birthday.

“We felt we wanted to do this, and to do this for Jim’s family, too,” Worlein said. “They are like family to us.”

Valerie Schewe, longtime office manager at the Chamber, said she did not know Stough in the way perhaps close friends would – but she was struck by his real concern for anyone he knew who was facing hardships. When her husband was diagnosed with an illness some years ago, Stough made sure to ask about how her husband was doing and to listen to Schewe if she was having a bad day.

“He was always concerned and caring about other people,” she said. “He was just that kind of person.”

Jeanine Nelson, the community relations and major events coordinator for the Chamber, agreed. She spoke of his many hours as a Chamber Ambassador – so many that both he and his wife, Terri, another Ambassador volunteer of note, earned membership to the Ambassador’s “One Hundred Club.” He was also a faithful volunteer in helping with line-up during the annual Freedom Fest Parade.

Stough’s caring nature will be missed by many, said Schewe.

“There are not too many Jim Stoughs in this world,” she said.