Patrick Staunton, 85

Psychiatrist, lover of Yeats' poetry

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Dr. Patrick Staunton, 85, died on June 9, 2013 after a 14-month battle with brain cancer. Born on April 9, 1928 in the town of Swinford, County Mayo, in the west of Ireland, he was the first of his family to come to the United States but far from the first to practice medicine. He was the fourth of six children born to Michael Douglas Staunton and Ursula (Mellett) Staunton and grew-up watching his father deliver babies, treat tuberculosis, set broken legs, and sometimes advise the family to call the priest. Pat, his three brothers, and two sisters all went into the family business, attending medical school in Dublin, and pursuing careers as physicians. Except for Tom, who remained in County Mayo, all emigrated from Ireland — three to England and two to the United States.

When Pat arrived at Union Station, Chicago, in July of 1952, the two Mercy Hospital interns who greeted him took him not to Lytton House, the residence at 2700 S. Prairie for Mercy Hospital doctors in training but directly to the hospital to work his first shift.

He came of age as a psychiatrist at a time when Thorazine was first being used to treat severe mental illness and President Kennedy had accelerated the move toward deinstitutionalization through his passage of the Community Mental Health Centers Act in 1963.

Bridging perspectives from neuroscience, psychoanalysis, emerging psychotherapies, he stayed grounded by keeping in mind the principles of physician and humanitarian Dr. Francis Peabody: "The secret to the care of the patient is in caring for the patient."

From 1959 to 1993, Dr. Staunton's career involved nearly every aspect of the treatment of the mentally ill. Following his training at Mercy and Cook County hospitals and Chicago State Hospital (Read), he served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy before joining the recently built Illinois State Psychiatric Institute (ISPI).

In 1969, Dr. Staunton was recruited by the Ogilvie administration to serve as regional administrator with authority over all Department of Mental Health facilities, institutions, and community psychiatry and mental health programs in the Chicago area. In 1973, Governor Walker appointed him deputy director of the Illinois Department of Mental Health. In 1975, he also served as director of psychiatry at the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital. In 1976, he was recruited by Dr. Lester Rudy, chairman of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois and former director at ISPI, to help develop Lutheran General Hospital's psychiatry residency program. He served as Lutheran General's Psychiatry Department Chair from 1979 until his retirement in 1993.

He continued teaching until 2005, his favorite course being "The History of Psychiatry." Dr. Staunton has also served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission and the board of Family Service of Oak Park (now Thrive), a non-profit dedicated to community mental health services. He also served as president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society and was an active member of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) throughout his career, beginning in the 1960s as part of the National Institute of Mental Health's National Community Psychiatry program, and in particular through his contributions to the APA's Ethics Committee.

In 2004, he was awarded the Assembly Warren Williams Speaker's Award by the APA for outstanding contributions in psychiatry and mental health. He was also a fellow of the American College of Psychiatrists and served for many years as an examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Above all, Pat Staunton was a devoted husband, brother, father, grandfather, uncle and friend. His Irish charm, quick mind and compassionate connection helped him find common ground with people. With a long memory of the many stories that came before, he listened with interest, eager to solve problems, congratulate or empathize. A tough competitor on or off the tennis court, he was also respectful and gracious, and he always made space for another's point of view. Pat was an avid historian, political junkie, and Chicago sports fan who loved to spark a good debate. He might as easily contribute a keen intellectual insight or a provocative question. Passionate about Yeats, his family and friends will long remember his ability to recite long passages of the poet's work.

He was a longtime parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Church.

Pat Staunton is survived by his wife, Nancy, who has also had a long career in public service, including two terms as a village trustee in Oak Park; his children, Mary, Jane (Max Nibert), Anne, Kevin (Maria Christu), Brian (Elizabeth Van Thorre), and Tom; his brother, Vin; his sister, Carmel; and his grandsons, Jack, Kyle, Will, Luke, Van, Kevin and Finn. He was preceded in death by his siblings, Dudley, Moira and Tom.

A wake will be held at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home on June 14 from 4-9 p.m. A funeral service will be celebrated on June 15 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Catherine of Siena.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to Rainbow Hospice, 1550 Bishop Court, Mount Prospect, IL 60056.

Reader Comments

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Ginny McLauchlan Deitchler from Fort Collins, Colorado  

Posted: June 12th, 2013 4:31 PM

What an amazing man and family. I send my prayers to the entire Staunton clan as they celebrate Patrick's amazing life. I wish I could be there.

James van Thorre from Riverside  

Posted: June 12th, 2013 10:48 AM

So informative and true-- I feel extremely fortunate for knowing Pat as long as I did-- unfortunately it was for too brief a time.

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