Henry “Harry” Joseph Staunton
Henry Joseph Staunton, 84, a resident of Cape Coral, FL for the past 35 years, formerly of Potomac, MD, passed away Friday, September 27, 2019 in Cape Coral. He was born March 2, 1935 in Cork, Ireland to Joseph Francis and Sarah (Waters) Staunton, now deceased.
“Harry”, as he was known to his family and friends, was of the Catholic faith, albeit not actively practicing. Harry was an adventurous sportsman and scholar, growing up in Ireland, and he continued his love for tennis and sailing later in life. As with many Irish families in those times, Harry was the one son chosen and encouraged to join the Catholic Church to become a priest. To honor his family’s wishes he dutifully followed this course and eventually graduated with honors from the Seminary. Shortly thereafter, Harry found himself as a practicing pastor in the Washington DC area. For several years, Harry was a dedicated leader and counselor for many in his “flock” helping them find hope in times of need.
Harry often told one such story of a troubled youth he was asked to help find a better path. The youth was otherwise thought by his parents to be headed for a life of crime, but after a meeting with Harry and receiving some strong advice from then Father Staunton, that same youth, many years later, graduated at the top of his class from the FBI academy. In fact, that youth specifically thanked and called out Harry in his graduation speech for being the most influential force that brought him to seek out a career in crime fighting.
Later during his priesthood, Harry found himself consoling a parishioner who was tragically grappling with the terrible premature loss of her middle aged husband from an untimely heart attack. Several months later, Harry found he’d grown very close to that woman. Eventually, he came to the difficult decision to leave the priesthood and marry the love of his life, Pauline “Polly” Swift, a widow and mother of three young children. Harry had traded in his fatherly collar to dawn the trappings of a loving husband and stepfather to two young boys and their older sister.
Together, Harry and Polly Staunton raised their family, kept a home in Potomac and Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, traveled and sailed throughout the Chesapeake Bay and even as far as the inland coastal water way to Florida. During their time together, Harry and Polly shared a great love for animals. They were known to have many pets, including several dogs and two Capuchin monkeys named “Sam” and “Jim”. Eventually, with all three children grown, Harry and Polly both retired, bought a home in Cape Coral, Florida and traveled between Maryland and Florida as “snow birds”. However, as with many empty nesters, Harry and Polly found themselves drawn toward different interests as they approached the autumn of their lives and so they amicably divorced. Despite the conclusion of their marriage, Harry and Polly remained close friends and both kept homes near each other in Cape Coral, Florida until Polly’s passing in March of 2016.
During his retirement, Harry continued his adventurous spirit, sailing over many parts of the southern hemisphere. Enticed by his brother Joe who held property in the Far East, Harry soon found himself visiting Joe in the country of Thailand. Harry fell in love with Thailand and purchased a beautiful vacation home in Phuket. On his many visits to the country, Harry met his last significant companion, Nuk Khasming “Nook” as Harry called her. Harry and Nook became very close, so much so that Harry built another home in Thailand near Nook’s family rice farm where he and Nook enjoyed the simple life of the Thai countryside. Harry often took steps to help Nook, her family, and many other members of Nook’s surrounding village. Over his many years of visiting there, Harry became quite the well-known foreigner with a big heart. Everyone there very much enjoyed Harry’s visits and he would always return to the US with numerous stories of his adventures there.
Shortly after Polly’s passing, Harry was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. It was a devastating illness for a man of his age, but his health challenges never slowed him down. His doctors were continuously amazed with Harry’s resilience and strength in battling his illness, and they would often tell him that they thought he might just be the one in a million that could truly beat AML. Sadly though, after nearly a three year fight with his cancer, Harry was finally hit with a blow to his immune system that even he could not recover from. He peacefully passed at Hope Hospice in North Fort Myers, Florida with his son John and John’s wife Debi by his side.
Harry is survived by his three step-children, Diane and James (deceased) Soppa of N. Ft. Myers, Neil Swift (Carrie) of Richland, WA and John Swift (Debi) of Cape Coral; six grandchildren, Bridget Fitzgerald (Gary), Nick Soppa, Ryan Swift, Jason Swift, Erin Swift and Steven Swift; as well as three great grandchildren, Courtney Soppa, Jordan Soppa and Dillon Fitzgerald.
A celebration of Harry’s life is being planned for December 2019. Interested persons should reach out to Harry’s stepson John at JohnSwift@Comcast.net.
Mullins Memorial Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Cape Coral, is entrusted with final care.