LORAIN — Tim Grakauskas will be remembered by his friends for his “Stone Cold” Steve Austin impersonation, love of Stevie Ray Vaughan, sense of humor and selflessness.
Grakauskas, 42, died Tuesday of injuries sustained when his house in the 200 block of Kansas Avenue caught fire about 3:30 a.m. July 12. Neighbors helped get Grakauskas out of the house and douse the flames on his body, tending to him until first responders arrived. Grakauskas was taken to Mercy Health Regional Medical Center in Lorain and later flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he died Tuesday.
According to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, he suffered second- to fourth-degree burns over 85 percent of his body. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal, but foul play is not suspected, according to public information officer Kelly Simpson.
Bobby Bunn and his girlfriend, Angela Schindler, both of Vermilion, described their friend as an athlete, avid fisherman and all-around good person.
“I met him through a buddy named Cody Leach, and we went fishing all the time together,” Bunn said. “They fish way more than me — they kind of made fun of me because I was the worst fisherman and ... Tim, he’s the best.”
Bunn played flag football with Grakauskas and some other friends for a couple seasons, and said he was a great teammate and very competitive guy. Grakauskas also was an avid Cubs fan, and Bunn said his friend’s allegiance to his hometown team was a point of contention a couple years ago.
“He loved the Cubs. He wasn’t an Indians fan; he was a Cubs fan,” Bunn said. “I remember when we were in the World Series, we were fighting about that.”
He said Grakauskas was always telling him to learn some Stevie Ray Vaughan songs on guitar, but he hadn’t before the fire. Now, Bunn said he plans to learn “Little Wing.”
Schindler remembers Grakauskas’ sense of humor.
“I got him to go to a country concert and he put me in one of those giant wooden chairs like they have at Cedar Point that everyone takes pictures in,” she said. “And he had to help lift me up into the chair because I couldn’t get in it. And then he left me there thinking that it was hilarious because I couldn’t get out.”
She started a GoFundMe campaign for Grakauskas’ funeral expenses Tuesday, naming his sister as the beneficiary. She also set up collection jars at her work and places Grakauskas liked to hang out, so those uncomfortable donating online could give cash.
“I just wanted to do something,” she said. “I’ve lost my mom and stepmom over the last few years, so I know how expensive funeral arrangements and everything are. I just wanted to make sure that the family could cover it — I don’t know what their finances were or anything like that … I can’t believe the amount that everyone has reached out and donated and everything so quickly. The GoFundMe page has been up two days, maybe three days now and it’s almost to $2,000. … And then I set up collection jars, we have six locations were the collection jars are at as well.”
She plans to collect the money from the jars next weekend and give it all to his sister or mother.
In the midst of Grakaukas’ jokes, Bunn also recalled when his friend stressed the importance of being there for his girlfriend and her child. He said Grakaukas was a great father, always talking about his son.
Bunn said the loss hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but it still breaks his heart.
“It’s like I’ve lost so many friends over the years, just from different things. You really know how short life is,” he said. “In the blink of an eye anything can change. You’ve just got to tell the people you care about them.”
Cody Leach, of Lorain, agrees. He and Grakauskas had been friends for about five years, after Leach moved to the area from Toledo.
“Honestly, me and Tim have kind of had a rocky friendship,” Leach said. “We had had a misunderstanding, a disagreement and now that this happened you really can never take life for granted.”
He remembered going fishing with his friend for walleye in Lorain in December, braving cold winds and freezing water to try and catch a few fish.
“We both like to fish a lot, and the weather hasn’t really stopped us,” Leach said. “And there was one time we went out there to see if the lake was frozen over and there was a couple chunks of ice on the water, but it wasn’t frozen. It was every bit of 15 mph winds, and we were standing on the rocks. Tim netted the first fish for me and he ended up catching three. … We were only out there for a hour and a half, but it just shows he was not against going into the freezing cold for the love of the sport.”
He called Grakauskas a “master fisherman” who was also known for his interest in dirt bikes and motorcycles. Grakauskas’ father was a famous dirt biker, and Grakauskas reportedly learned to work on the bikes with his dad growing up.
“Tim was always out there in the pole barn trying to repair some bikes. That was something that he liked to do apart from fishing to relieve stress was just get on a bike and go,” Leach said.
Like Schindler and Bunn, Leach will remember Grakauskas’ sense of humor — especially one practical joke he played when he and Leach visited Grakauskas’ cousin’s house. The pair were planning to fish in a pond on the property, and Grakauskas reportedly told his friend to wear a red shirt, so as to annoy an unnamed friend that would be at the pond that day. Unbeknownst to Leach, that unnamed friend was actually a bull Grakauskas’ cousin had on the property.
“Halfway through the gate there’s this big old bull and I look over at Tim with this extreme disbelief and he was just laughing,” Leach said. “He liked to prank a lot.”
Leach said he and Grakauskas had had a disagreement and hadn’t talked for about five months leading up to the fire. He said when he heard his friend had died, he broke down at his job.
“No matter what you go through with someone good or bad, you still have a deep love for someone,” he said, “and it’s rough, especially for the people really close to him. Tim was staying with me for about a year, we were really, really close so it hit really, really close to home, no matter that we hadn’t spoken to each other for five to six months.”
Leach, like Bunn, is trying to accept that his friend is gone and urges people to reach out to their friends because “you never know when your time’s up.”
“It’s not easy at all and never get to see his face again, hear his laugh, his ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin impersonations,” he said. “I’m sure it will get easier as time goes on and we just keep holding each other up.”