Rev. Dr. Robert Stewart of Carmel, Indiana, died at 7:30 in his home Thursday, May 26, surrounded by family members and caretakers. He was 95 years young, and as recently as September 2010 had boarded a lobster boat which delivered him to an island off Portland, Maine, to officiate his granddaughter's wedding.
Always a man who believed in making a difference, Rev. Dr. Stewart will be remembered for his commitment to family and faith. As a young man growing up in Niles, Michigan, he was the son of a barber and one of three boys in a Depression-era family's household. Interestingly, all three young men later became ordained ministers, but Rev. Stewart's call was not immediate.
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a law degree in 1942, flying as a Navy bomber pilot with the Flying Irish and working in the FBI as a special agent, he answered a call to the ministry.
In 1952, he graduated from Louisville Theological School and began to serve as a pastor. Beginning as a pastor preaching to a small rural congregation worshipping in a tiny community near Salem, Indiana, he served Beech Grove Church. After receiving his theological degree, he moved to Greenwood, Indiana, and served as the pastor of the Greenwood Presbyterian Church; then moved on to serve as Field Representative of the National Board of Missions of the Indiana Synod of Presbyterian churches, a position he held for two years.
A love for the role of parish pastor called him to answer a new challenge, and in 1955 he returned to serve a group of one hundred dedicated people hoping to start a new church. From that small group grew Orchard Park Presbyterian Church in Carmel, Indiana, ten years later, Orchard Park had over 1,000 parishioners; and the time arrived for another new challenge. In 1966, he was installed as the minister of Westminster Presbyterian Church near Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Serving as the pastor to the congregation, Rev. Dr. Stewart also enjoyed and nurtured the musical connections between the church and Millikin. Today, Millikin University's Rev. Robert S. and Doris Stewart Prize in Religion award bears tribute to Doris and Bob Stewart. In addition, Rev. Dr. Stewart was nominated and designated as Pastor Emeritus of Westminster.
Bob Stewart was a man who believed in serving both parish and community, and he was very involved in numerous roles in addition to the traditional roles of the church minister. In Decatur, Illinois, he served on the Board of the Kimmerer Children's Village, St. Mary's Hospital and the local Salvation Army. While in the Indianapolis area, he was Moderator of the Indianapolis Presbytery, Chairman of the Board of Missions, Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Jordan Family YMCA, and a volunteer at St. Vincent's Hospital in Carmel and the Lighthouse Mission in downtown Indianapolis.
When most people retire, they slow down, not the Stewarts. While in Decatur, Bob read a job advertisement in a ministerial publication, applied and was hired as the chaplain for the Exxon community in Aruba. For two years, home became the Exxon Compound; however, longing for stateside called, and the Stewarts returned to America to accept Bob's call to become a Parish Associate at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. He served there until a second retirement fourteen years later.
As dear to him as his faith was his family, and he was the center of many milestones. He officiated at both sons' and only daughter's weddings, baptized seven grandchildren, officiated at five of their weddings, and baptized one great granddaughter. He leaves a legacy of anniversary, birthday and graduation celebrations and a treasure of handwritten notes of encouragement and laughter. Most dearly he leaves a portrait of a loving marriage's partnership of sixty-seven years. He and Doris were a team; even their email address of BODO bears tribute to their commitment to each other.
Bob Stewart was a man who loved life and will continue to be a gentle and reassuring presence in many ordinary parts of his family's life: the Notre Dame fight song (his phone ring), his favorite church hymn "Be Thou My Vision," and the sound of a strong, reassuring voice of prayer.
His immediate family survivors include: his wife Doris; his two sons R. Steven Stewart (wife Pam) of Noblesville, Indiana: Dr. John Stewart (wife Jan) of Portland, Maine: his daughter Marcia Stewart Breckenridge (husband Dan) of Rindge, New Hampshire; grandchildren Robert Breckenridge (wife Trish) of Keene, New Hampshire; Nathan Breckenridge of Rindge, New Hampshire, Evan Breckenridge of Homosa Beach, California; Nick Stewart of Indianapolis, Indiana, Molly Stewart Murray (husband Jimmy) of Chicago, Illinois; Anna Stewart Turcotte (husband Joey) of Portland, Maine; Sam Stewart (wife Dana) of Austin, Texas and one great granddaughter Ava Stewart of Austin, Texas. Also surviving are two brothers: Rev. Dr. Roy Peterson of Michigan and Rev. Col Stephen Peterson of Texas.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Robert Stewart to Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, or the Rev. Dr. Robert Stewart Endowment for Parish Ministry Students at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Friends may view his online guestbook at: www.harrywmoore.com