VALPARAISO | Lynda Stiff loved her "little big brother" so much, and appreciated how he always watched out for her, that she got him a Father's Day card this year.
Her love for her brother is also why, after he was struck and killed by a train two months ago in Valparaiso, she got a tattoo in his honor. The artwork -- a green shamrock bearing his nickname, Pug, and hers, Ween -- adorns her right calf.
Stiff, 25, of Hobart, is speaking out because she wants people to know the truth about her brother, Patrick Stiff, 23, of Valparaiso, and how he died.
Although a friend of Patrick Stiff originally said the two were playing chicken with the train when Patrick Stiff was struck, the full investigation shows Stiff was not playing chicken at the moment of his death, Valparaiso Detective Lt. John Ross said. Patrick Stiff got off the tracks, but while still near them apparently stumbled and was struck.
"My investigation shows it could have been an accident. We're never going to know what really happened," Ross said.
Lynda Stiff said Internet sites have made fun of her brother for playing chicken and losing, when that's not really what happened.
"Accidents occur. It doesn't mean you're an idiot, and it doesn't mean this last thing is his whole life," she said.
"He really wasn't that person. He was a good and kind person. He was my little big brother. He took care of me."
Lynda Stiff said their father left when she was 14 and Patrick Stiff was 12. She said her brother was always there for her.
She said her brother loved to sing and sounded just like Joe Cocker and that he had a band. He also loved watching the Chicago Bears and "Ultimate Fighter." He also was known for his big red van, which he equipped with a sofa and recliner.
Patrick Stiff, a Portage High School graduate, worked for ALA Industries in Valparaiso and previously worked as a cook for Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. He was known as an excellent cook and hosted dinner parties, Lynda Stiff said.
She said her brother wrote happy birthday on his belly and woke her up with a song on her 17th birthday.
"He'd do stuff like that all the time," she said. "He was a funny kid. He had a lot of fun."