Baltimore Sun

Veteran Sun Sentinel columnist Gary Stein dies at 72

Gary Stein, former Sun Sentinel columnist, died May 1. He was 72
. He retired in 2017 after 36 years with the paper.

As a newspaperman, whose career included 36 years at the Sun Sentinel, Gary Stein wore nearly every hat there is — sportswriter, columnist, editor, bureau chief and editorial writer.

Stein died Wednesday afternoon after a battle with pneumonia, his wife said. He was 72.


Originally from Chicago, the ardent Cubs fan longed to be a sportswriter. He defied Momma Stein’s dreams for her son to grow up to be a doctor and instead pursued a journalism career.

Stein graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1969 and landed a job as a sportswriter at what is now The Rockford Register Star.


He joined the Sun Sentinel so long ago that it was still called the Fort Lauderdale News. That was 1981. Stein stayed until his retirement in 2017.

“Gary was a fabulous journalist who felt the calling deep in his soul,” said Earl Maucker, a former Sun Sentinel editor in chief, who hired Stein. “Throughout his career, he had held a standard few could match. Humor, integrity, dedication and humility were among the assets he brought to his craft.”

Maucker and Stein had worked together in Illinois since 1973. Maucker was managing editor of the Fort Lauderdale News, which published in the evenings. It would eventually merge with the morning paper, the Sun Sentinel.

"In later years, Gary thrived on working and training young journalists. His passing is a very sad day for the local journalism community and Sun Sentinel family."

Sun-Sentinel Editorial Columnist Gary Stein, in this photo from July 29, 1985, participated in an event where local officials and members of the press were locked in the Broward County jail to live as prisoners would for 24 hours.

In his 15 years as a metro columnist, Stein penned some 3,500 columns.

His next step, in the mid-90s, was mid-management where he was the editor who oversaw the Sun Sentinel’s west office in Sunrise.

His final stint would be as a member of the paper’s editorial board.

“Gary was my go-to guy on the editorial board,” said Rosemary O’Hara, the board’s editor. “He was smart, funny, fast, hard-working and had something interesting to say about almost any issue — from the Dolphins, to the Middle East, to the death penalty, to the White House.


“Though sometimes a little crusty on the outside, he was as big-hearted as they come … Gary was so proud of the Sun Sentinel and the many people he mentored here, including me. I’m broken-hearted. He was such a good man. I never met a man more devoted to his family. I only wish he’d had a chance to really enjoy retirement.”

Crusty, yes. Biting wit, ditto. Stein also could be described as skeptical, loyal, committed, quiet and liberal — very liberal.

Gary Stein retired from the Sun Sentinel in 2017 after 36 years.

In Stein’s final column, published Sept. 2, 2017, he waxed on a career that enabled him to interview Fabio, stand near Nelson Mandela and opine on everything from guns, too many pit bulls in South Florida, and construction projects such as the Sawgrass Expressway, which he scoffed at as a waste and a “road to nowhere.”

“I can’t forget to tell you how much I appreciated you folks reading my opinions for so many years — and taking the time to let me know your opinions, often in very colorful language,” Stein wrote. “To the folks who said they taped one of my columns to the refrigerator, you should know that’s the highest compliment a columnist can receive.”

South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Stein “always put the reader first” whether writing a column or an editorial.

“Gary could make you laugh or get angry, but he always made you think,” she said. “He could be both thoughtful or fierce and he communicated that clearly in his column. It was always a pleasure and a challenge to answer his pointed questions when I went in front of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board. I express my heartfelt, deepest condolences to his wife and son. It is a major loss for our community as well.”


Stein’s wife of 30 years, Jackie, and their son Mark, 27, along with other relatives, were by Stein’s side when he died at Coral Springs Medical Center. He had been hospitalized there since March 29, the day after his 72nd birthday.

“He loved everything about the newspaper business,” Jackie Stein said. “And he loved everything about the feel of a newspaper, he liked having that in his hand. Even now we still get a newspaper delivered to our house.”

Jackie Stein, a now retired Piper High School math teacher, met her future husband on a blind date set up by a mutual friend. They went to dinner at Shirttail Charlie’s on the south side of the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale and that pretty much sealed the deal on their relationship, Jackie Stein said.

“I can’t explain it, he was just so different from other guys,” she said. “He had a big heart, he was a good listener, he made me feel really special.”

Stein was reluctant to retire, shrugging off colleagues who tried to nudge him into taking one of the many buyouts the paper had offered in his final years there. By the time Stein left, he had physically slowed down, and spinal problems made walking a chore.

“He loved what he did,” Jackie Stein said. “He just wasn’t ready. He wanted to keep going as long as he loved it, and he was waiting for me to be ready to retire.”


Jackie Stein retired in August. The couple, who made their home in Coral Springs, had hoped to do some traveling. “Sadly, we didn’t get to do that,” she said.

The funeral service will be at 3:15 p.m. Friday at Star of David Funeral Chapel at 7701 Bailey Road in North Lauderdale.

Staff writers Anthony Man, Doreen Christensen and Brittany Wallman contributed to this report.

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