WEST CHESTER, Pa.-An overflow crowd attended the memorial service for Georgianna Hannum Stapleton at the Church of the Loving Shepherd in West Chester on Saturday, Feb. 25. She had died of cancer on Jan. 17 at the age of 73.
Luckily, it was a lovely, warm day, because a dozen rows of chairs had to be set up outside the doors of the church to accommodate the large number of people, and even so, there were more people standing five of six deep outside another door.
The sun stayed out for the whole service, although a heavy rainstorm hit just as the reception, held at the Wilmington Club in Wilmington, Del., began.
A large crowd was also in attendance at the reception, which included the Club’s traditionally delicious hors d’oeuvres served in the large reception room.
Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds moved the time of its meet to 8 a.m., to accommodate the memorial service, which began at 2 p.m.
“My mother had a life long love of the countryside,” said Jeb Hannum.
Along with her, at that time, mother-in-law, Mrs. John B. Hannum, MFH of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, Stapleton fought for conservation of the hunt’s land, resulting in zoning laws restricting properties to 50 acres or more that could not be subdivided.
“In 1976, my mother started her company, Country Properties, that had the unique mission of conserving the countryside,” said Hannum. “She was a great business person. I worked for her twice, and I learned so much from her.”
“She hated cancer,” said Hannum. “It turned her life upside down, but she faced cancer head-on and never complained.”
“She was the best mother ever,” Hannum said. “She always put her children first. She was a loving and generous grandmother.”
“She shone like a star, and her star is still shining,” said the Rev. D. John Woodcock.
STAPLETON was first employed with the Historical American Buildings Survey in Washington, D.C. as an Architectural Historian.
In 1976, she founded Country Properties, a real estate firm committed to open space preservation, and she was an early, and persuasive, champion of placing conservation easements on landowners' properties.
Stapleton was chosen, by a leading conservation group, to oversee the disbursement of the King Ranch property, which resulted in the permanent preservation of over 5,000 acres in southern Chester County. an action that transformed the conservation easement movement in the community.
Born in Chestnut Hill, Pa., to George H. Duross and Helen Curtiss, she attended The Raven Hill School, The Springside School and The University of Pennsylvania (B.A.).
She was married to The Honorable Walter K. Stapleton, a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
They were married for 25 years and lived at Foalsfield, their farm in Unionville, Pa.
Previously, she was married to John B. (Jock) Hannum, Jr., who was a decorated Marine Corps officer in the Vietnam War, and they raised four children, Christianna P. Hannum, John B. (Jeb) Hannum III, Curtiss P.S. Hannum, and George D. Hannum.
Stapleton was famous for her parties, dinners, and informal gatherings around the kitchen table, and she brought people together, from family members to Supreme Court Justices and local artisans. Foalsfield has always been filled with children swimming and fishing in the pond, Gator rides through the fields, the laughter and teasing of friends and family, and the joy of being in Stapleton’s company.
To all who knew Stapleton, she was smart, beautiful, and a loyal and generous friend.
She was magnetic and fostered friendships and built community in all the places she loved, including Nantucket and Maine.
Stapleton served as a Board member of the Chester County Hospital, The Primitive Hall Foundation, The Chester County Planning Commission, Planned Parenthood of Chester County, The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Orchestra and The United Way of Chester County.
She was also a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and a Fresh Air Fund Host Family. She is survived by her husband, her four children and their father, her eight grandchildren, her sister, and her niece and nephews.