Thursday, January 24, 2013

About Stewart

As his daughter, Becky,  said as we were standing around his bedside last night, "When they made dad, they broke the mold." Stewart was indeed a one-of-a-kind person. One indication of his uniqueness is that he willed his body to the University of Iowa Medical School, but on top of that, he requested before he died that we all get into a station wagon with his un-inbalmed corpse and drive it to Iowa City! We're pretty sure that he was remembering the occasion of my mother's death, back in 1967, when we all piled into a station wagon - "we" being my family, Shirley, Betsey, John and myself, and all Stewart's family - Stewart, Maggie, Susie, Peter, Daniel and Becky, and drove to Anamosa, IA for the funeral, with our mother's ashes in an urn. Admittedly, that was a memorable trip!   The kids balked at driving his corpse to Iowa City (we weren't even sure it would be legal! Can you drive a corpse over a state line without a permit?). So the funeral director is driving Stewart's body to Iowa City as I write.

Stewart was insatiably curious about everything. He would preface even the most trivial piece of information with the words, "it's interesting." I think that was a genuine feeling on his part. He was opinionated, stubborn, at times infuriating, but always interesting. And determined!  Our last weekend together, it was agony for him to walk a few steps, he was so short of breath. But nevertheless, by golly, he went out to breakfast with us Saturday morning at Richard Walker's Pancake restaurant with a group of family, went with Ellen and me and his friend Carol out to supper Saturday evening, and over to his daughter Susie's house Sunday evening to watch the Patriots get clobbered by the Ravens (as it turned out). What a trooper!

Stewart had a B.A. from Grinnell College and a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa. He served in the U.S. Army as a part of the army of occupation in Germany immediately after WW II ended. He was a school social worker all his professional life in the Elgin (IL) public schools - working with troubled kids and their families. He was an avid barbershop singer. His barbershop quartet probably delivered hundreds of "singing Valentines" to people in the Elgin area over the years. He was a great dad - he and his family took several cross-country camping trips. He and his wife, Maggie, divorced over 30 years ago, but they remained good friends and Maggie and her husband Jerry were there at the bedside all day yesterday right to the end. All these years the family has gathered regularly at Maggie and Jerry's house for get-togethers, and that is where Ellen and I usually stay when we come through Elgin on our trips west. It just happened this time that Jerry was just getting over chemotherapy treatments, and since I had had the flu and his immune system was weak, we decided to stay with Stewart this time - providentially. I am so glad that we had those days together. Ellen even had a chance to fix Stewart a nice Sunday dinner (though she wasn't happy with the meatloaf. But Stewart liked it).

Here is a more recent photo of Stewart with his daughter, Becky.

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