Our Donors – The Beach-Stanton Family Fund
A Legacy of Giving that Spans Generations
A chance visit to Nantucket nearly 50 years ago first brought the Beach family to the island, and would lay the foundation for what would become one of Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s most meaningful and lasting relationships.
It was the mid-1960s when Debby Beach traveled to the island on a whim, and like so many others, she became entranced. She told her parents, Norman and Irene, about the little island community she had discovered, and they too became intrigued and decided to make the trip.
After their flight was diverted to Hyannis due to fog, the couple took an evening ferry and stayed at The Summer House in ‘Sconset. For Irene Beach, who would become known to many islanders simply as “Rene,” the ocean view was beautiful, but not the charming, cobblestoned village she had been promised. She and Norman then took a taxi into town “and the rest is history,” recalled her son-in-law, Dr. Robert Stanton.
“They walked down Old North Wharf and she fell in love with the place,” he said. “She pretty much never left the island. She decided that’s where they wanted to live.”
Rene and Norman, an executive with Kodak in Rochester, NY, purchased a lot on India Street and built a home that just happened to be located across the street from the Nantucket Cottage Hospital Thrift Shop. It wasn’t long before Rene knocked on the Hospital Thrift Shop’s door, wondering what she could do to help.
Over the years and decades that followed, Norman, Rene and their family committed themselves to helping the Hospital Thrift Shop and the hospital itself with an uncommon level of dedication and vigor.
Today, even after their passing, the Beach-Stanton Family Fund carries on their legacy of generosity to Nantucket Cottage Hospital. Dr. Robert Stanton, now an orthopedic surgeon in Connecticut, oversees the Beach-Stanton Family Fund and fondly recalled the family’s long history with the Hospital Thrift Shop, Nantucket Cottage Hospital and the island. Shortly after they completed their home on India Street, Norman became the Hospital Thrift Shop’s bookkeeper, while Rene volunteered inside the store, doing everything from stocking shelves to ironing clothes, or ensuring that there was adequate parking for volunteers like her. 22
“I just love that old building, making it pretty!” Rene told Yesterday’s Island in 2007.
The couple also donated countless items to the Hospital Thrift Shop over the years which ultimately generated additional funds for the hospital. Rene would become the Hospital Thrift Shop’s longest-serving volunteer, yet repeatedly turned down requests to serve as its president, preferring to work behind the scenes for the benefit of the hospital. In addition to her work at the Hospital Thrift Shop, she also volunteered at hospital events like the annual NCH Health Fair.
“She would always be there to open the door (of the Thrift Shop) year-round, letting people bring things in,” Dr. Stanton said. “She was always doing something to help the hospital.”
In addition to his role at the Hospital Thrift Shop, Norman served on the hospital’s Board of Trustees for many years, and later stayed active in its affairs as a Trustee emeritus. Norman was a constant advocate for the hospital, even insisting that a required surgery be done on the island rather than in Boston.
“He was devoted to that hospital,” Dr. Stanton recalled. “He said ‘I’m a Trustee, I’m having my surgery here’.”
The countless volunteer hours contributed by Norman and Rene were in addition to the thousands of dollars they donated to the hospital over the years.
For Dr. Stanton and his late wife Debby, an artist who passed away in 2013, the connection to Nantucket goes well beyond visits to Norman and Rene’s home on India Street. In the mid-1970s, while he was a resident physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Dr. Stanton would spend his summers as a visiting physician at NCH.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said of his time at NCH, although back in those days, he admitted, it was pretty quiet at the hospital, even in the summer months. “The nursing staff was wonderful.”
Debby volunteered at the Hospital Thrift Shop when she was on-island, and helped her mother maintain “her room” – the one immediately to the left when you walked in. During a Festival of Trees event at the Nantucket Historical Association, Debby and Rene once decorated a Christmas tree with Hospital Thrift Shop bags, one for each year since it opened in 1929, with the annual gift amount given to NCH written on the side.
Dr. Stanton’s own son Jim visited Nantucket when he was just weeks old, and took his first steps inside one of the hospital’s employee houses. Now 38, Jim returns to Nantucket each year with his own children.
From one generation to the next, the Beach-Stanton Family continues to honor the tradition of giving back to the hospital that Norman and Rene so generously established.