Cynthia Stafford was dedicated to helping others.
“She had a teacher’s heart,” said her daughter, Andrea Brown. “Everything she encountered, she figured out a way to benefit somebody.”
Stafford, a Westfield resident who died July 23 at age 76, was a special education teacher at Noblesville High School, Hamilton Heights High School and Westfield Washington Schools. She was also an adjunct instructor at Ball State University and supervised student teachers.
After receiving her lung cancer diagnosis in November 2019, Stafford quickly wrote her first book, “Through the Gate: Starting a Journey with Stage 4 Cancer.”
“It was how she dealt with the devastation of her diagnosis, which was weird because she was never a smoker,” Brown said. “She wanted to find out a way for her experiences to help other people. In it, she advises people to come up with things that give them purpose. Her second book, the Vietnam novel, was her taking her own advice.”
The novel is based on her own family’s experience. Her brother, Henry Dennis Babers, was a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps and died in Vietnam after rescuing several men in his command. Stafford released her second book, “Three Trillion Drops of Water: Vietnam, A Hero, And Home,” in July 2021.
“The letters in her Vietnam book are the exact texts of the letters her brother wrote to the family back home,” Brown said. “She wrote the novel around those letters. The story of Hank Dennis’ character in the book is her understanding of what actually happened to her brother. She was in contact with a number of the men with whom he served in Vietnam to research this, as well as to connect with those whose lives he touched so profoundly.”
Brown said she navigated all the intricacies of building a website, designing book covers, setting up an author page on Amazon, and creating a social media presence during the last two years of her life.
“Her stubbornness was really an asset,” Brown said.
Stafford and her husband, Steve, moved from Arcadia to La Grange, Ky., in 2000. Stafford founded the HDB Service Group, a nonprofit organization in honor of her brother Henry Dennis Babers, in 2002. The HDB Service Group became a United Way Agency. The organization provided non-emergency medical transportation, created public transportation for the county and started a free medical clinic for the uninsured. The HDB Service Group remains a nonprofit in Indiana, but no services are currently provided since it become dormant after Stafford was diagnosed with cancer.
In another of Stafford’s efforts to keep her brother’s legacy and memory alive, she also helped organize a scholarship in his name for veterans at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi.
In 2013, Stafford and her husband sold their Kentucky home and transferred the services their nonprofit provided to other agencies, and moved to Westfield to help Brown, who was then newly single with three young children.
‘Both Cynthia and Steve had been single parents and educators, both were committed to helping by handling after-school time, homework, snacks, driving the kids to practices, games, school meetings, checkups, etc.,” said Brown, who lived next door to her parents in Westfield. “They were firm believers in an all-hands-on-deck approach to child-rearing.”
Stafford worked with the Carmel Friends Church food ministry, helping to provide much needed resources to people facing food insecurity. Stafford sought ways to help refugees and participated in gathering and distributing food and goods to people impacted by the war in Ukraine.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Stafford is survived by son Dennis Feaster (Sarah), and her grandchildren: Christiaan, Jack, Carlo, Tyler, Emily, Benjamin, and Piper. For more on Stafford’s books, visit cynthiabstafford.com.