Ormie King: Honoring Auburn Legend David Stapleton

Ormie King: Honoring Auburn Legend David Stapleton

From the Ormie King's latest Legends of Auburn columns series

The following is an article I did about Dave Stapleton and family back in 2002. I thought it only appropriate to share it again, in light of Dave’s recent passing, as he will surely be missed. Thank you, Stapleton and Karpinski familes, for being great Legends of Auburn!

I think you would agree that when two families like the Stapletons and the Karpinskis merge, you literally end up with whole families of legends. What about these two families?

My Legends of Auburn today are T. David Stapleton and his wife, the former Helene Karpinski. David was born Jan. 30, 1943, in Auburn and his mom was Wilhelmina “Billie” Meagher (pronounced Marr), who was an English teacher before her marriage, and she was one of six girls. Her dad, William, ran the Meagher Funeral Home across from where the old ABC Bowling Alley used to be on State Street. Her five sisters (David’s aunts) were Margaret, who married Dr. Stanley Major of Syracuse; Mary, who married Ray Murphy in Rochester; Rosamond, who married Dr. Edward Kelly of Syracuse; Kathryn, who married Joe Cuddy and they ran the Meagher & Cuddy Funeral Home at 81 N. Fulton St.; and Harriet, who died in infancy.

Every one of the girls was musically inclined. Their mother was Mary Bennett Meagher, who played the piano and organ at Holy Family Church for years, and she was extremely adept at playing the harp. She taught her daughters both harp and piano and they continued into their early life with it. Dave’s mom “Billie” had a solo performance playing the harp at Carnegie Hall. After that she taught Dave’s two sisters and his two daughters how to play the harp, and today they have had four generations of harpists in the family. At holidays they always have someone play the harp as part of the family tradition. They showed me two beautiful harps that have been in the family for many decades.

T. David Stapleton’s dad was Dr. Thomas David Stapleton, who was also a Legend of Auburn and he was born in Auburn at 7 Park Place on Dec. 10, 1912. His dad, John (David’s grandfather), was treasurer of the Auburn Water Department. John also had an orchestra that traveled around Cayuga and Onondaga counties and John played the fiddle. He was married to Ann McDermott and they had five children. The oldest, Jack, died as a teenager at the age of 12. Anne Stapleton headed up the hematology department at the Cayuga County Lab. Ann just died March 15 of this year (2002). Then there was Isabel Stapleton, who was the financial officer with Columbian Rope Co. and lives at 21 Teller Ave., and her sister, Helen Stapleton, was the Auburn city champion in tennis for three years. She married Frank Demming, who ran Demming’s Hardware in Geneva, and they have a son, David, who works for the IRS in Dallas.

Dr. Tom Stapleton and “Billie” got married in April of 1942 at Holy Family Church with Msgr. Conway presiding. Their first home was at 7 Park Place next door to Bill Catto’s parents. Prior to becoming engaged, Tom Stapleton tried to enlist in the service but he was rejected because of flat feet. After their engagement, he got drafted anyway and Billie still wanted to get married so they did. Tom got drafted into the Navy but was assigned to the Marines where he went from North Carolina to Camp Pendleton in California, and then he was shipped out to the South Pacific to participate in Iwo Jima, Saipan and Tinian, where the Enola Gay left from, to drop the atom bomb on Japan. Iwo Jima was the first time America was on Japanese soil and Tom was a doctor in the medical corps of the 4th Marine Division, where he got wounded in the leg. He refused to be evacuated and continued to treat the wounded, and he received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor.

In 1944, Sheila Stapleton (Dave’s sister) was born and dad came home from the end of the war in 1945 and David and Sheila and Doc and Billie all moved to Brooklyn, where Dr. Tom studied eye surgery at the Eye and Ear Hospital. They were there for two years, until 1948, when they returned as a family to live at Meagher Funeral Home with Grandma Meagher at 158 State St. Dave Stapleton spent most of his youth there. Dave went to Holy Family Grammar School and in the second grade he met the love of his life, Helene Karpinski, and he knew back then that she was the one for him. Dave played CYO basketball and his dad coached the team. His teammates were Bobby Hearn, Jim and Pete Tonzi, Larry VanWie, Dick DeLorenzo, Al Patrick, Don Kelsh and Tom Welgoss. Dave went on to Mt. Carmel where he starred in basketball under coach Don Bucci and they had a great team, with such stellar athletes as Dave, Ross Tisci, ‘Spuds’ Murphy, Sonny Marinelli and Don Bucknam. After high school, Dave went on to Georgetown to get his degree, where generations of Stapletons have gone. Dr. Tom graduated in 1934, David in 1964 and his daughter, Meghan, in 1994 and his son, David, in 1995. Also, three generations lettered in varsity sports at Georgetown. Dr. Tom played basketball and lettered in baseball and David lettered in basketball and Meghan was a diver on the swim team and young David was the soccer goalie.

Helene’s parents were John Karpinski, a well-known lawyer in Auburn and Evelyn Nimits, who lived on Division Street. She was manager of dining facilities at the Osborne Hotel. Their family home was on North Street, by North Park. Helene attended Logan Street Nursery School, and then kindergarten at Lincoln School, and then Holy Family Grammar school and then on to Mt. Carmel, where she graduated in 1959. She and her family moved to West Lake Road when she was in the eighth grade. After Mt. Carmel, she attended Boston College at the same time Bill Fitzpatrick was starring in football for the Eagles. She graduated in 1963 and taught fifth grade at Public School 18 in Buffalo. She went on to Washington, D.C. with Sabina Kulakowski and Kathy Cuddy and Helene worked for Sen. Ken Keating as a research assistant, and worked on his advance team when he ran against Sen. Robert Kennedy and lost. She then moved into Sen. Hugh Scott’s office doing the same thing.

Helene started dating Dave in 1964, in fact on a blind date, and they went on to get married Aug. 6, 1966. Helene has a brother, John A. Karpinski, who is a partner with Dave in the law firm and he is married to Nancy Brereton, a director of career services at Wells College, and they have four kids, Elizabeth, Amy, Peter and Sarah. Helene has a sister, Lois, who teaches English to the Dutch and she is married to Dick Martijnse, also a teacher, and they live in Heerhugowaard, Netherlands, and have two boys, Jesse and Kevin.

Helene Stapleton has been the coordinator of disability services at Cayuga County Community College for the past 15 years. Helene’s dad, John, was the youngest city manager in the history of Auburn in the 1920s. He was also the city clerk, and he shared his law practice with Fred Wills at the Auburn Savings Bank, one floor below Dr. Tom Stapleton’s office. Helene’s dad was also a special surrogate judge.

Helene and David have a daughter, Meghan Stapleton, who is a news anchor and reporter for an NBC television station in Anchorage, Alaska. Meghan received her master’s degree at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. They have another daughter, Shannon, who is a program director for National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Washington, D.C., and she is also the musical director for Sunday service at Georgetown University, where she plays the harp and piano, and conducts the choir. Shannon went to Boston College and got her master’s in social work at Catholic University.

Helen and David’s son, T. David III, is now second lieutenant in the Marines, stationed at Quantico, Virginia. He formerly worked at J.P. Morgan in New York City, where he became the youngest vice president at the age of 28. The company gave him a sabbatical leave so he could try out for the Marines. He graduated from Georgetown and got his master’s at Columbia International Affairs in economics.

Dave’s sister, Sheila Stapleton, is now an executive assistant with the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, D.C.

His other sister, Miriam, is married to Kevin Moynihan, who is a general counsel to Merrill Lynch in New York City. Miriam is retired from teaching and they have two kids, Brendan, who also attended Georgetown and works for the NFL, and Caragh, who is a senior at Georgetown.

Dave Stapleton has a brother, Bill, who also went to Mt. Carmel and then graduated from Scranton University and now works for Sun Micro Systems in Vienna, Virginia, where he lives with his wife Kathy, and they have two kids, Christie, who attends Virginia Tech and Tricia, who attends York College.

David Stapleton received his law degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and Helene obtained her master’s at George Washington University.

Helene’s grandpa, John Karpinski, had an undertaker’s license, in addition to running the clothing store at 47 Perrine St., so when a Polish person died they took them two blocks down to Meagher’s Funeral Home on State Street and they had a special banner made up that went behind the casket that said Meagher & Karpinski.

Helene is very proud of her Polish heritage and she wanted to give something back to the country of her ancestors so she spent a month of volunteer teaching of English and American government in Poland, and it was a most rewarding and enlightening experience for her.

Her most embarrassing moment was at CCC’s first campus in the old James Street School when she was a teenager. She went there to pick up her dad from a board meeting and while waiting for him she ran into the restroom. Soon after, her eye doctor, Dr. Tom Stapleton, walked in. Helene quickly finished, glanced at him, looked at the sign on the men’s room door and realizing her mistake, she turned blood red and ran out. At home that night, she informed the family that she was so embarrassed she never wanted to see Dr. Stapleton again. Needless to say, about eight years later she married his son and saw plenty of him for the rest of his life. God bless him, he never mentioned the incident.

David’s dad was a mighty force behind modern professional baseball in this city and he was one of the most highly respected citizens of Auburn that I can remember.

Dave gave him a terrific eulogy at his funeral and he is very proud of his parents and takes a lot of pride in his wife, family and professional accomplishments. He has accumulated over 100 years of serving on the boards of local charities. His crowning achievement was acting as chairman of two United Way campaigns, each of which raised more than $1 million dollars for community agencies. Dave summed up this aspect of his life by saying, “You make a living by what you receive. You make a life by what you give.”

Mike Cuddy, Dave’s longtime friend had this to say about Dave: “David is very community oriented and service to others is one of his hallmarks. I cite his very successful work for the United Way as an example. However, there is a downside to his energy. He will turn a pleasant golf outing into a safari, including bird watching and environmental lectures. On a recent golf trip to southern Pennsylvania, David has his companions inseminating horses at his Georgetown classmate’s farm, between matches. In three years, we may very well have an Auburnian running in the Kentucky Derby named 'Go David!' A true story, no less."

Chris Buscher, director of the United Way, had this to say about David: “I was first introduced to David in 1996 when I came to Auburn. I asked him to consider being chairman of the campaign and he did so with class and an appetite for success that I have not seen in many individuals. He exemplifies the definition of a leader and his passion for helping those in need is unsurpassed!”

Pat Powers-Burdick works with Helene at CCC and has traveled to France with her. She had this to say: “Helene is a dear friend – intelligent – and extremely humanistic – there are so many instances where she has been so kind to people. She is the epitome of a classy woman and she’s a great example for people in education to follow her lead. She is truly there for her students. She goes the extra mile and is very patient and she has a great sense of humor. What more could you ask for in a person!”

Linda Brandstetter, Helene’s longtime friend and co-worker said this: “Helene’s dedication to her students is absolutely incredible. Her sensitivity enhances the rapport she has established with each and everyone who she works with. We had so much in common and worked so well together that we decided to operate a travel agency when we retired. When situations arose, that thought gave us many laughs. In short, Helene is a jewel.”

Jeff Rosenthal, the director of the academic support center at CCC, has this to say about Helene: “Helene is an institutional treasure. She is a consummate professional who has given her heart and soul to this community for the past 15 years. She is a person that brings the highest integrity and great professionalism to everything she does.”

I think all of you will agree that Dave and Helene and the entire Karpinski and Stapleton families are truly Legends of Auburn and our community has benefited greatly from their presence here.

This article ran in May 2002. Since that time, Dave proudly represented this area and served our state as chair of the elder section of the New York State Bar Association. Dave retired from his legal practice a couple years ago. Helene retired as coordinator of disability services at Cayuga Community College and was honored with SUNY’s Chancellor Award for Excellence in Professional Services and the Disability Services Council Award.

Shannon married Armando Galindo Jr. (now deceased) in Washington, D.C., and settled in Virginia. Shannon is a school social worker with Fairfax County Public Schools.   

Meghan married another Auburnian, Eric Steenburgh (son of Patricia and the late Tom Steenburgh, academic dean at CCC). They recently moved to Florida with their four children: Isabella, Ji Ji, Mia and Michael, to be closer to family. Meghan presently attends Syracuse University College of Law through its JDi program.

Son David has continued serving in the military on active duty and in the reserves.

Ormie King's column appears Sundays in The Citizen and he can be reached by email at ormie5king@gmail.com.


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