Harry Bruce Straight, 71, passed away from cancer at home on Saturday, March 10, 2018, surrounded by loving friends and family. Harry was born in Miami Beach, grew up on the Southwest coast of Florida, served at Hahn Air Force Base in Germany during the Viet Nam war, and graduated from the University of South Florida.
After college, he moved to the Orlando area where he worked as a journalist. Harry had a knack for making complicated issues both understandable and highly entertaining, which served him especially well when he covered local government and politics for the Orlando Sentinel. He believed and practiced the reporter’s creed, that “the purpose of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.
Harry left The Sentinel in 1990 to be a stay-at-home Dad when very few considered it an option. He continued to work as a free-lance journalist (including writing stories about his adventure travels – hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, climbing Kilimanjaro, river rafting on the Bio Bio River in Patagonia, etc.), obtained his Master of Liberal Studies from Rollins College and taught Environmental Literature at Rollins as an Adjunct Professor.
His interests were as varied as were his talents- he played saxophone and harmonica in rock and roll bands for over 30 years, yet kept his car radio on jazz or the Sinatra channel. He read ferociously- up to three books a week (especially mysteries, and anything having to do with Florida), and named his younger son “Shelby Chandler” because it sounded like a Southern author (and he was a Raymond Chandler fan). He built a room over his garage for the model trains he collected, poured over train magazines and videos, visited train layouts on his travels, rode trains when possible, and labored for weeks/months over his annual holiday layouts. He was a skilled woodworker, crafting furniture out of wood from his father-in-law’s farm, and delighting his children and grandchildren (as well as those of friends) with wooden trains, fire engines, cars and animal pull toys. Harry was also an ardent amateur photographer, often saying that when he was taking a picture he “tried to think like “ Judy Tracy – local professional photographer extraordinaire, former Orlando Sentinel colleague and good friend. He was would spend hours watching television, especially movies, and named his younger daughter “Jessica Lauren” after Lauren Bacall (although he initially told his wife it was for his father, Lawrence Straight). Yet for years he made the time once a week to spend an entire day cooking for the homeless.
Harry was the exception to the “rule” that male friendships are lousy in comparison to friendships among women. He and his best friend of 35+ years had a weekly standing lunch date. And he met two dear friends for breakfast every morning at the College Park Diner for five years, up until the week before his death.
Harry is survived by his wife of 31 years, Kay Wolf, children Shannon Straight (Stephanie) of Naples, Jessica Straight, (Jordan Albright) of Orlando, and Shelby Straight, recently of San Diego, California, now of Orlando. His daughter, Kelly Straight, Cain, predeceased him, as did his parents, Larry and Virginia Straight. Harry is also survived by grandsons Nicholas Straight of Naples, Jonathan Straight (Amanda) of Prattville, Alabama, Alexander Straight of Arcadia, and Alvie Wolf of Orlando, as well as granddaughter, Katie Madaras (Stephen) of Naples, and his great grandson, Stephen Madaras, Jr., of Naples. Harry also leaves behind his beloved miniature schnauzer, Lily.
Harry was talented, smart, funny, respectful and compassionate. He always showed up, and on time; he never let you down. He loved people and good conversation (especially over good food), and could invariably find common ground – even when he disagreed with the view being expressed. He brought joy to us all, and we are the better for having known him.
On Saturday March 17 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Richard’s Episcopal Church, 5151 Lake Howell Road, Winter Park, FL, we will come together to celebrate Harry’s life as we hug, laugh, story-tell, sing and then afterwards dance to the music of his band (“The Clayton Band”), sans sax. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Richard’s Episcopal Church for Family Promise or to St Michael’s Episcopal Church for The Gathering.