Tammy Dore was supposed to have been in the audience as the students in New Braunfels High School’s Class of 2019 crossed the stage to receive their diplomas on Thursday. Instead, she was among them, carrying the cap and gown of her niece, Amy Stein.
Stein died Saturday, May 25 — just five days before her graduation ceremony — from complications of a commonplace surgery. In preparation for graduation and a summer trip to Europe, Stein had a tonsillectomy, a procedure generally known to be safe. MDedge Family Medicine reported in 2010 mortality rates for the operation range from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 35,000, with postoperative bleeding being the main cause of death.
“It was completely unexpected,” Dore said, explaining her niece had planned to follow her trip to Europe with some time at a local community college before going on to study psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “She loved choir and theater. She loved doing (stage) makeup and she was really good at it — her theater teacher said she was one of the best.”
Dore said Stein, who was also passionate about caring for animals, including her three rescue dogs, Rocky, Daisy and Sugar, was very loyal and very sweet.
“She was the kind of person who, if someone called in the middle of the night, she would get out of bed to help them,” Dore said.
As graduation day grew nearer, Dore realized someone should represent the family, so she spoke to her brother, Bill, and one of her nephews, letting them know she was willing to do it. With their approval, she contacted a friend who is a superintendent in San Marcos to find out who to talk to at Stein’s school.
“I got in touch with the principal, Kara Bock,” she said. “She’s a very sweet lady. They provided a rose and set up a display on Amy’s chair.”
When her niece’s name was called, Dore slowly carried her cap and gown across the stage to symbolize her presence as an announcement was made explaining the situation. After receiving Stein’s diploma cover, she gave Bock a long hug.
“I could see that Amy’s classmates were standing and applauding,” she recalled. “When I got back to my seat, my friend told me that the whole stadium was standing and applauding. It was extremely touching.”
After the ceremony was complete, Dore said, many members of the faculty and staff came to hug and console her.
“Someone gave me a dozen roses — I don’t know who,” she said. “It was so touching. Someone even came up to me at Buc-ee’s because they recognized me and wanted to give their condolences.”
Dore said it was an honor and a privilege to represent her niece and their family during the graduation ceremony.
“I wanted to help the community heal and honor Amy’s memory,” she said. “That was my main motivation for making the suggestion to my brother.”
Dore said the Stein family is heartbroken and appreciates the community’s love and support from the bottom of their heart.
“The family would like to say, ‘When you are spending time with your family, cherish your time together, because you never know when life might take a different course. Amy’s family is grateful beyond measure to both the community and New Braunfels High School for the outpouring of their love and support,’” Dore said.
The funeral service was set for today at 10 a.m. at Zoeller Funeral Home, 615 Landa St., with burial immediately following at Hill Country Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made in Amy Stein’s honor to Austin Pets Alive, www.austinpetsalive.org/.