ST. PETERSBURG — The American flag flew at half-staff Saturday in front of the Allendale Terrace home of Gary and Marie Stempinski.
It was a symbol of the loss of the Stempinskis, whom police found inside the house Friday, dead in a murder-suicide. But it also was a sign of community respect for the couple, known for their work in law enforcement, business, journalism and civic affairs.
Gerard Joseph Stempinski, 69, who went by Gary, was a longtime St. Petersburg police officer who went on to a second career as a financial adviser. Marie Stempin-ski, 72, was a business consultant and guest columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.
Officers found their bodies at their home at 700 35th Ave. N about 9 p.m. Friday. Police said Gary Stempinski shot his wife, then took his own life with the same handgun.
A friend of the couple, Hardy Bryan III, said Mr. Stempinski had seemed depressed last week because a gym injury left him unable to walk without a cane, and then only haltingly. His wife had recently learned a severe hip injury she had suffered in a fall would leave her dependent on a walker or wheelchair the rest of her life.
"Gary was always the picture of health," Bryan said. "He once told me, 'If you don't have health, then you don't have anything.' He basically went from someone who was very healthy to almost an old man overnight."
Bryan called police to the Stempinskis' home after their daughter, Roseann, who lives in San Francisco, called to say she had not been able to reach her parents on the phone. And Mr. Stempinski did not show up for work Friday at the Carillon office of Raymond James & Associates, where he was an associate vice president for investments, according to his Raymond James online profile.
"That has never happened before," Bryan said.
Bryan visited the home, but only the bark of the couple's dog, Popper, answered his knocks. So he called police, who found the bodies. Bryan said police found Mr. Stempinski dead in a hall, and his wife dead in her home office.
Gary Stempinski served for more than 25 years as a St. Petersburg police officer, detective and training officer. His assignments included coordinating cases for the city's Nuisance Abatement Board in the 1990s. In that role he won praise from residents frustrated with neighbors who allowed problems like drugs and prostitution on their properties.
"Gary was extremely intelligent," police spokesman Rick Shaw said Saturday. "Very nice guy. Very cerebral."
In 1998, Stempinski went to work for A.G. Edwards & Sons and 10 years later joined Raymond James & Associates. He served as president of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, was an appointee to the Pinellas County Economic Development Council and was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Mr. Stempinski served in the Coast Guard and had an associate's degree from St. Petersburg College and a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida, according to a biographical sketch he gave to the economic development council. He served as a trustee for the St. Petersburg Police Pension Fund and treasurer of the Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association.
Marie Stempinski was president of Strategic Communication, a consulting firm she founded in 1985 that specialized in public relations, marketing, business development and employee motivation.
Over the past six years, she wrote about 100 columns about business and careers for advertising sections of the Tampa Bay Times.
Mrs. Stempinski was the first woman to work as a reporter for Orlando television station WFTV, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also worked at Brevard Community College, was marketing director at Operation PAR in 2015 and taught courses in television and radio production at St. Petersburg College.
In 1993, she was elected president of Gulfcoast Executive Women, the Pinellas County affiliate of the National Association for Female Executives.
The Stempinskis married in 1973 and bought their home in 1994, according to Pinellas County property records. Both had served as directors of the Allendale Terrace Neighborhood Association. When the Allendale Terrace neighborhood group first formed in 1996, Gary Stempinski served as vice president.
Bryan, the couple's friend and neighbor, said he went to lunch every Thursday with Mr. Stempinski. During their last meal together at Red Lobster, he saw that his friend was depressed, apparently about his health. Bryan did not think it was severe.
"I planned to talk to him today to recommend he get help," Bryan said Saturday. "Marie also recognized he was down in the dumps."
Bryan said Mr. Stempinski planned to retire in another six or seven years. But with his ill health, he feared he might have to do so sooner, Bryan said.
As word spread of the couple's deaths Saturday, a friend walked to the Stempinskis' neighborhood and saw the flagpole in their front yard. He paused, then walked over to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff.
"He and Marie were a fantastic couple," the man said. "Both were very involved in the city. They loved St. Petersburg. They were never going to move. I guess I just wanted to honor them somehow."
The man was former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.