On June 19, 1929, in East Chicago, Ind., a white dove — a sign from above — announced the arrival of John W. “Jack” Stewart, the first of two sons born to Scottish parents, John and Isabella (Gray) Stewart. On the wings of a dove he arrived at his Heavenly home, following his earthly death, at 10:29 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, at the age of 84.
Jack Stewart and Barbara Pickering were united in marriage on Oct. 10, 1954, and lived their dreams in an incredible journey of love together for 59 years.
Upon the untimely death of his father, little 6-year-old Jack promised to care for his mother and 4-year-old brother, and immediately started his very young career as an ambitious, hard-working business “man” carrying the National Townsend Weekly, and singing the Townsend song along the way. As with everything in his life, he continued to keep his promises and put his heart and soul into all he undertook, including full-time employment at Postal Telegraph at age 12, soon earning 30 cents per hour at age 13.
Jack left Danville High School when he reached age 17 to join the Navy on July 9, 1946, and proudly served his country on the aircraft carrier USS Bairoko CVE 106, with his four-year tour of duty taking him to Balboa, Panama; Aleutian Islands; two years on the island of Guam; and his final year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He came back to receive his diploma in 1947 and continued on to earn his degree in 1956 from the College of Business Administration, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis.
In 1951, he accepted employment with Fidelity Loan Company, advancing to executive manager on Aug. 26, 1965, a position he held until 1980 when he joined the Second National Bank (which later became First Midwest Bank) as commercial loan officer. He continued in various positions at the bank, and in March 1988, he was appointed manager of First Midwest Bank’s Voorhees facility, as well as director of Super 60 and Club 50 senior activities. Jack was committed and deeply dedicated to the clients’ banking needs and requests, including seminars, informational meetings, bingo, weekly euchre games, as well as planning and escorting approximately 30 activities/travel tours a year, from one-day to annual cruises and international tours. After the 9/11/01 terrorist attack on the World Trade towers in New York, and a time of tremendous stress, limited air travel and uncertainty, he managed the safe return home of all 57 travelers, following a cruise from New York to Bermuda.
After five decades in the banking business, Jack retired from First Midwest Bank in December 2001 to follow his heart, and he and Barbara continued to pursue their love of travel to the far corners of the world, including most of Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, North and South America, with Jack’s motto, “Relish the Moment.” Throughout all his awe-inspiring destinations and travels to the wonders of the world, he found his true joy in the journey itself. Jack humbly believed “Life hands us many privileges; but, none greater than the people we meet along the way.” His home and backyard flower/rock garden, overlooking a peaceful lake, were his pride, joy and retreat, and brought him contentment and tranquility in his retirement years.
For many years, Jack was very active in the Danville community with civic drives and club work, serving the United Community Fund, Danville Junior College Fund and Vermilion County Museum Fund drives. He was a member of St. James United Methodist Church and past president of the Methodist Men; 32nd Degree Mason, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Danville Consistory; life member of Anchor Lodge and Gao Grotto; Ansar Shrine; past president American Business Club, receiving the National President’s Citation for Superior Clubs for 1964-65 and the first annual Honorary Amdoes Award in 1977, life member of the Big Hat Club and board member of the Ambucs Camp for Handicapped Children; charter member of Vermilion Hills Country Club; past president of Vermilion County Credit Bureau; past board member of the Salvation Army; licensed Realtor in 1979; member of Elks Lodge and American Legion.
Surviving are his wife, Barbara, whom he lovingly called his “little flower”; brother, Allan (Martha) Stewart; two sisters-in-law, Patricia (Rolland) Goin and Margaret (George) Scarlett; two brothers-in-law, Charles (Gladys) Pickering and John “Jack” (Sherry) Pickering; and sister-in-law, Sue Pickering; 21 beloved nieces and nephews, and several great-nieces, great-nephews and cousins.
Jack was preceded in death by his father and mother; grandparents, William and Annie (Lannigan) Gray, who were immigrants of Wishaw, Scotland (with whom young Jack, his brother and mother lived); grandparents, John and Elizabeth (McCrae) Stewart, of Glasgow, Scotland; a very dear aunt, Margaret “Greta” (Gray) Evans; father-in-law, Frank “Elmer” Pickering; mother-in-law, Anna “Vi” Pickering; sister-in-law, Helen Green; three brothers-in-law, Robert Pickering, Michael Pickering and Shelby Green; and two nieces, Cindy Stewart-Fox and Lisa Kjormoe.
Jack was “one of a kind” and will be remembered for his love of travel, good-natured teasing, passion to do well, humility and inspiring values. Jack touched many lives and was deeply concerned about others and never forgot where he came from. He drew strength from his deep faith in God; and his was a life of devotion, a life of blessings, and a life well-lived.
A celebration of Jack’s life will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at St. James United Methodist Church, 504 N. Vermilion St., Danville, with the Rev. Randall Robinson officiating. A visitation will be held 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at Sunset Funeral Home and Cremation Center, A Life Celebration Home in Danville. Burial will take place at Sunset Memorial Park.
Memorials may be made to St. James United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, or American Cancer Society. Please join Jack’s family in sharing photos, videos and memories of him on his tribute wall at www.sunsetfuneralhome.com.