“Aside from losing my wife, it was the most devastating experience of my life.”
Those who suffer a stroke know the incident is always a life-altering experience. For Robert Stack Pierce, the stroke he experienced in 2012 was a defining moment in a life filled with high expectations and much success.
“Since my stroke, I’ve had time to think about what happened and I see things differently than I did at first,” he says. Today, he relies on the free support and therapy provided at the Stroke Recovery Center in Palm Springs, a place that he says has made a big difference in his life.
Pierce has certainly never lacked talent, or the determination to succeed. At a young age, he was a state boxing champion while also showing great promise in the game of baseball. After high school, Pierce joined the Army, becoming an Airborne Engineer and playing baseball in the Special Services. His remarkable skills on the field were soon recognized by the Cleveland Indians, who promptly signed him to a Major League contract. Shortly after, his contract was sold to the Milwaukee Braves, and Pierce remained with that team for six years until retiring in 1960.
Pierce and his wife then moved to Los Angeles, and in 1968 she encouraged him to audition for his first play, The Ebonites. He diligently studied his craft and worked extensively with a repertory company. Over the years, Pierce developed a reputable career as an award-winning thespian, appearing in countless stage, screen, and television productions.
After his wife passed away in 1988, Pierce retired from acting and became a stage director. It was during this time that he was pulled back into the sport he loved: baseball. For six years, he enjoyed a thriving second career as a high school coach: until that stroke unexpectedly sidelined him last year.
“Despite what has happened to me, I continue to see others who are much worse off than I am, and have come to see myself as a very lucky person,” he admits.
Stack acknowledges that the stroke has slowed him down a bit and has greatly affected his sense of balance, a painful irony for the once spry and quick athlete. Despite these physical challenges, he remains active, exercising regularly at the Stroke Recovery Center in Palm Springs and making sure to spend quality time with friends and family. He firmly believes that his lifelong passions for baseball and acting have greatly aided him in his recovery.
I’ve used my acting and baseball experience to really push myself. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s not,” Pierce admits. “When I would stand in the batter’s box and hit a baseball, balance was always very important, and I’m working to regain that skill now. As an actor, I relied on memorizing lines and learning a part, and I am using some of that discipline now to help me retain what I’m learning in my therapy at the Stroke Recovery Center.”
Founded in 1978 by Dr. Irving Hirshleifer, the Stroke Recovery Center offers long-term rehabilitation to the survivors of stroke and traumatic brain injury, along with support for their families, caregivers, and loved ones. Services are structured to each client’s need and may include speech therapy, counseling, education, nutrition, socialization, and just plain fun. All services are free, since insurance coverage does not currently exist for the long-term treatment of stroke or TBI.
“For clients like Robert, being part of the community here provides the additional support needed to aid recovery from the problems that come with a stroke,” says Center CEO Bev Greer. “We are anticipating breaking ground on a new exercise facility before the end of the year, which has been made possible through some very generous donations from our clients and our loyal supporters. This facility will greatly enhance the work that we do, and will expand our ability to offer even more exercise options.”
Never one to resist a challenge, Pierce is looking to start hitting the links here in the desert, having previously played in several tournaments as a celebrity golfer. It would appear that this man of the stage and the baseball diamond is preparing for his second act.
“You never know what you’re going to encounter in life. I know that there’s more for me to do,” he says.
Stroke Recovery Center currently serves close to 300 patients per year, with 10,200 patient visits annually. All of the Center’s patients participate in advantageous recreation/socialization therapy programs, and all therapy is free of charge.
For more information, please call (760) 323.7676 or visit www.strokerecoverycenter.org.