Naples resident, waterman and musician John Huntington, Jr. died on June 17 of an accidental heroin overdose. He passed with family members at his St. Mary Medical Center bedside.
Despite heroic efforts, the 28-year-old never regained consciousness and couldn’t be revived despite receiving multiple doses of Narcan, leading medical professionals to believe that fentanyl was involved. Autopsy results are pending. Huntington’s family said they were sharing details of his death to raise awareness of the growing national opioid epidemic.
Addiction took his life, but it didn’t define him.
Huntington was born on July 10, 1989, in Long Beach. He attended Naples Elementary School, Rogers Middle School and Wilson High School. According to his family, he was an amazing little boy, with deep-red straight hair and sparkling blue eyes. They remember a rambunctious, incredibly sweet and cuddly boy wearing little blue denim overalls.
Family memories of Huntington include him cruising around his backyard racetrack on his Little Tikes tricycle, learning to roller blade wearing his big sister’s eight-sizes-too-big roller blades and mastering a two-wheel bike at just 3 years old.
They tell of his love of music that started when he was 4 years old. He would insist that no one else could sing his favorite Nirvana song because it was “his” song. He loved being read to. He loved his sheepdog, Charlie.
As Huntington got older, the family said, he loved to entertain himself with physical activity. He was an energetic spirit, always on the move. He found joy and passion from trying new things, like fishing, boating and surfing. He loved BMX biking and skateboarding.
When he competed in the Long Beach Junior Lifeguard four-mile beach run and two-mile buoy swim, he could have easily won the coveted “Stud Ironman — Under 2 Hour” T-shirt. Instead, he hung back to be encourage a friend to finish. This was typical of his supportive, kind and friendly behavior.
But, his family said, as he entered his adult years, his disease of addiction progressively became more powerful. He worked with his best friend and father in the family water-bike business.
His parents said that alcoholism and addiction fueled his behavior more and more. He hated his disease. Often he would sit in front of his Naples Canal house, listening to music, just trying to drown out the pain of it all. He tried to get better many times. Still, his parents added, glimpses of his soul pushed through the struggle. Most people saw that side of him. The welcoming spirit. The warm, walking bear hug. The deep conversations.
Huntington is survived by his parents, John and Nancy Huntington, sisters, Angela Huntington and Melissa Almquist, nephew, Carter Gourley, niece, Summer Gourley, and many lovin, aunts, uncles and cousins.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to: gofundme.com/addiction-research, with funds going to the Institute on Drug Abuse.
A memorial paddle-out will be at 10 a.m. July 7 at the end of The Colonnade on Naples Island. Guests are encouraged to bring leis, flowers and flower pedals to place in the water. Afterwards, family and friends are invited to attend the Celebration of Life at the Huntington home.
A special message from Johnny’s family:
“Johnny’s experience, strength and hope will live on forever. We will always share his story and help other addicts and their families. Addiction is so much more than substance abuse. The disease affects thinking and behavior for generations, in so many families. Many times our community wants to be quiet about the truth, to save face. This doesn’t help. This only alienates and makes people feel alone. Johnny loved helping people and we’ll make sure he never stops. Addiction does not discriminate. Stop the stigma. No more shame. Please reach out to the family for support or resources if your loved ones are experiencing the affects of alcoholism or addiction.”