EASTHAMPTON - On Nov. 29, 2012, Philip Edward Stark, 55, of Easthampton, died peacefully at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, after a brief battle with pneumonia, in the company of his longtime advocate, Melissa Harwin, and embraced by the love of his many, many friends.
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Born July 27, 1957, in Northampton, he was the son of Charles C. Stark, Jr. and Katherine Doyle Heffernan Stark. As was common at that time, Philip, who was born with Down syndrome, was placed into the care of the Belchertown State School, an institution for the disabled. It was there that, at the age of nine, Phil met Randy Lunsford, who was to become his beloved roommate and companion for the next 30 years. Despite the fact that he began his life in an institution, and had no further contact with his family of origin, Philip lived a full and happy life, filled with adventure and surrounded by a loving and beloved community of friends.
In early adulthood, Philip, along with many of his peers, was the beneficiary of a class action lawsuit brought against the state of Massachusetts, by Robert Simpson Ricci and his father Benjamin, the outcome of which paved the way for a richer life outside of the institution. Phil lived the remainder of his life in the Pioneer Valley, residing at various times in Amherst, Easthampton, Florence and Greenfield, in group homes, and for a time, with the family of David and Cheryl Facto.
As a youngster, he attended the Hampshire Educational Collaborative, and later, Riverside Industries, where for many years he received day habilitation services and was a paid employee, performing hand assembly and packaging work. He received residential supports through Community Homes for Children/Nonotuck Resource Associates and Pioneer Developmental Services/Behavioral Health Network. He was well served by the wonderful team at the Franklin/Hampshire Area Office of the Department of Developmental Services, and by his dedicated former guardian of more than two decades William Barry of Monson.
Throughout most of his life, Phil embraced each day with gleeful enthusiasm. He is remembered as energetic, joyful, loving, funny and tender-hearted by the many people whose hearts he touched. He enjoyed people, parties, music, dancing, cooking, eating, Jazzercise and vacationing. He enjoyed camping trips, went on a cruise and traveled extensively throughout New England, and to New Mexico and Florida.
He leaves behind his current guardian and friend, Melissa Harwin of Marshall, N.C.; his housemates Carl, Al, and Euchenna of Easthampton; as well as many, many friends.
He is predeceased by his parents; his much beloved friend and dedicated advocate, Louis J. Campaniello; and his longtime and beloved companion Randall Lunsford.
A lelebration of life is being planned for his birthday, July 27, 2013. For information about this event, please contact Melissa Harwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to Riverside Industries, Inc.
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Dec. 5, 2012