Obituary: Stellman fought until the end
By * Transporter

By Paul Sloth Journal Times Racine - Vince Stellman spent a lot of time around the boxing ring. He took an interest in the sport during his time in the Marines and spent years passing on what he knew to others. But Stellman, who was born and raised in Racine, was more than just a boxing coach.

Sure, he taught the sweet science to generations of young Racinians, but after 80 years of living, he could easily overflow a boxing ring with tales from his life.

Ever since joining the Marines at 16, Stellman was a fighter, but he lost his toughest battle, his battle against cancer. Stellman died Tuesday morning with his family at his side, in the home he and his wife, Marti, built in 1959.

Two shadow boxes sit on a shelf in Stellman's humble home, reminders of two of his favorite things, besides boxing. One holds medals he received during his proud service in the Marines. The other holds a set of fishing hooks. Stellman always found time to fish during trips to his family's cabin in Baileys Harbor, in Door County.

Stellman was born in Racine May 4, 1926. He grew up in the house that still sits at 1633 Racine St., where his father, William, owned a tavern. Stellman's mother, Elizabeth, signed for her son so he could join the Marines at 16. He later shipped out for three years of service in the Pacific Theater during World War II, from 1943 to 1946.

A family man Stellman met his future wife in December 1950 and they married on May 5, 1951.

"I hardly knew him. Nobody said it would work," Marti Stellman said. "He didn't date many girls, but he said when he saw me, he knew I was the one."

After another tour of duty in the Marines, this time one year during the Korean War, Stellman settled down to a quiet but busy life in Racine with his wife and three daughters.

She was by his side during 55 years of marriage, including the difficult final years, as he fought complications of cancer.

To his youngest daughter, Jill Greene, known by many growing up around Racine as "little Vince," he was a hero, a larger-than-life figure.

"He was always the biggest, strongest guy," Greene said, as she remembered growing up the youngest of three girls.

She spent weekends in her father's welding shop - a sign still hangs out front of the former Stellman Welding building on Washington Avenue - where he taught her to change her own oil. He also tried to teach her how to box.

A bout with cancer For six years, Stellman fought multiple myeloma, a rare form of incurable bone marrow cancer that recently took the life of actor Peter Boyle.

Judith Hartig-Osanka of Racine first met Stellman at a meeting of Racine's Multiple Myeloma Support Group.

During a meeting in July 2006, Stellman shared many memories of life in Racine - like his favorite uncle who traveled around as a human cannonball, or the bootlegging days at his father's tavern during Prohibition, or the times he played center for the semi-pro Racine Hornets football team because no one else wanted to.

While his tales fascinated other members, Hartig-Osanka remembered Stellman for the example he set in his battle against cancer, which included getting a stem cell transplant at an age when doctors tried to convince him not to.

"(In) the final stages of this cancer, you're on a roller coaster. He fought a good fight, right up to the end," Hartig-Osanka said. "He was such a fighter. He was an inspiration to all of us."

Stellman's family remembered him as a man who would always find time to help anyone in need, family, friends and neighbors. They also remembered a man who found time, right up to the end, to encourage his grandchildren's interest in sports.

His wife remembered a man with whom she was proud to spend her life.

"I'm still numb. It was tough taking care of him, but at least I still had him," Marti Stellman said. "But I know he's in a better place."

Stellman's Mass of Christian Burial is at 3 p.m. today at St. Lucy Catholic Church, 3101 Drexel Ave. Military honors will follow. Visitation will be from 1 to 3 p.m. today at the church. A reception will follow at Infusino Banquet Hall, 3201 Rapids Drive.