Widowed veteran, single dad struggles after his handyman tools were stolen

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A handyman who has already been dealing with several tragedies suffered another blow when someone stole his livelihood.

Jack Popek is a veteran, a husband, a father, a handy man and now he's also a victim.

While Jack was working away inside the condo just off Woodward in midtown, one of the other contractors went out to his van and found the van it open.

"They took all the cordless power tools, my laser level, my good carpenter level, my plumbing wrenches, my dremel tools," he said.

No one likes getting ripped off and the thieves probably didn't know Jack - because if they did, how could they kick a man whose life has been in turmoil since losing his wife 18 months ago.

"It's hard to talk about it," Jack said. "Even now, she woke up one morning in the middle of the night with chest pains. We took her to the hospital. They had to transfer her to Henry Ford Hospital. She had burst her aorta. She actually passed away on the table - and they revived her. 

"She was in a coma for a long time. Then she came out of the coma and she started getting better."

Just as Jack's wife Brenda was regaining strength, she died. Another devastating blow struck soon after, when in addition to raising his two young children, Jack was also caring for his ailing mother-in-law.

"She passed away nine days later after Brenda did," he said. 

By now, you may be wondering how much can a man take, but there's more.

Jack's wife was a federal employee, enrolled in the Thrift Savings Program. She had set aside a fair sum, but Jack and their children were not listed as beneficiaries.

"Brenda made out that paperwork on her very first day of work," Jack said. "Long before she got married and had children."

Jack says federal rules resulted in the money going to a relative who would not share it with him or their children. It is money Jack was counting on.

"That was our retirement, the money for the kids' school," he said. "Because by the time our children would be going to college, my daughter's marriage fund, stuff for us to live on."

Without his tools, Jack is finding it hard to support his family. He is proud, but practical. Anyone willing to donate power tools or gift cards from Home Depot or Lowe's can drop them off for Jack at the Parish office of St. Clare of Montefalco in Grosse Pointe Park, 1401 Whittier Road, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.  Monday through Thursday.

There is another reason Jack is telling his story: To urge other federal employees to check their paperwork to make sure their savings are going where they want it to go.