We, the Children of Mary Frances McCawley Stewart are sad to report that Mom passed away on September 14, 2019 after a short illness. Mom was awake and alert until the last few days of her life and was at peace with what was happening. Characteristically, she was more concerned about us than herself.
It is simply not possible to describe in just a few short words a life that lasted 93 years, but if we had to express it simply -- Mom had a life well lived.
Mom was born in Jefferson City, Missouri on December 20, 1925 to L.L. McCawley and Nona Dick McCawley. Because of circumstances out of their control she and her sister Roberta Ann, were raised primarily by their father and their beloved Grandmother Bridget O’Neill Dick and their aunts Bert and Jess Dick. It was because of this non-traditional upbringing that family was so important to Mary.
Mom and our Dad (Dale N Stewart) raised four children; putting them all through college and 5 post graduate degrees. They were married for 66 years until Dad passed away in 2015. And in those 66 years they were partners in every sense of the word. Dad often turned to Mom as a sounding board and counsel for work-related decisions. They raised their children in absolute agreement and cooperation. And, most importantly, they enjoyed each other’s company thoroughly for all those 66 years.
Dad had an interesting job. He worked in the theater industry, eventually retiring from Commonwealth Theaters as its CEO. He worked hard and was out of town often. As a result, Mom was alone with her four children a good deal of the time. So how did she manage to bring calm to the chaos? She read to us; every day. The best thing in the world was to come home for lunch in grade school and find Mom with a book open ready to read and lunch ready to eat. Every Christmas she read the Gift of the Magi to all of us, but never did get through it without crying. She had a lifetime love of books and she passed that love on to her children and grandchildren.
Mom was an unassuming person who did not want to be the star of the picture. Yet, because of Dad’s work she had some pretty amazing experiences for such an unpretentious person. She had an opportunity to attend the Academy Awards several times and met some of her favorite actors. She and Dad did not travel much for pleasure until after his retirement, then they traveled to England on the Concord and came back on the QE 2. She liked that! And, they visited Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. They spent several winters in Palm Desert: (Ok they were there so Dad could play golf, but that gave her plenty of time to read and do her crosswords). She took up golf: (Ok Dad wanted her to try it and she did – she was never very good at the sport, but she was a good sport). But as much fun as they had traveling, she was always happy to get home to family and her garden.. She became the Queen of Zinnias, learned to can tomatoes, pickle cucumbers, and wage(non-lethal) battle with the deer eating her vast displays of daylilies.
Mom was a volunteer at our schools before it was “cool” to do that. She always dressed up as a friendly witch at the Halloween Carnival when we were in grade school. She was the room mother of choice because of her clever snacks. She was the Girl Scout “cookie mom” for a couple of years, during which we all lived with cases of cookies for weeks on end. And, she was a stalwart Band Mother helping out each year to raise funds for all things band related when we were in high school. Later in life she found pleasure volunteering to help out those in need through her church.
Mom had friendships that lasted lifetimes and she made new friends with joy. She was generous with her friends and family -- both near and far. Mom and Dad shared their successes with others gladly and without hesitation. She supported several charities for decades including: Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders and the American Red Cross. Through example Mom taught us to be empathetic, and open and inclusive in thought and action. She was a wise counselor to others, and her children in particular.
This is not to say that Mom did not experience loss and sorrow in her lifetime. Being a young girl with a mother in a tuberculin center for years, and a father whose job required that they relocate often, Mom had to learn to be the new girl in school almost every year. She had a hard time keeping pregnancies when she and Dad were first married. She lost her best friend at a young age. And she lost her grandson, Jack Stewart, to a tragic car accident just a few months before both her beloved sister and our Dad passed away. Still, she had an uncanny ability to console others rather than seeking consolation for herself. She was able to laugh at herself and she loved making others laugh. She was always seeking the next joke, or good story to have at the ready. She loved to tell about the night Dad brought home the day’s receipts from the theater he was managing, which she then hid in the stove when they went out for dinner. They burned up the next day when she made some rolls and forgot what was in the oven. She laughed about some of her more traditional cooking failures – as it turns out pumpkin pie does need sugar.
Mary Frances McCawley Stewart, wife of Dale Stewart; Mother of Mac, Pat, Bridget and Ann; Mother-in-Law of Ann Gatewood Stewart, Marion Merritt and Patricia Police Stewart; Grandmother of Colin, Kevin, Jack and Justin; and Great-Grandmother of Amelia Frances Stewart, we, your children, are profoundly grateful that you were our Mom. You will be with us every day for the rest of our lives.
The Family requests that in lieu of flowers that donations be made either to the charity of your choice in Mary’s name or one of the charities listed below. Thank you
Doctors Without Borders, USA
40 Rector St., 16th Floor, Hagerstown NY 10006
Habitat for Humanity
1423 Linwood Blvd., Kansas City MO 64109
PO Box 2020, Garden Valley TX 75771
American Red Cross
1221 SW 17th St, Topeka KS 66604