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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Passing of Uncle Stew

Last week my uncle passed away at the way too young age of 67. I didn't have the opportunity to make it to Texas for his service, which made me a bit more sad. But I was able to share my grief with relatives as they gave me the honor of reading my short tribute at his service on Saturday. Here it is - to share with you all so you can understand the joy my Uncle Stew spread to the world:

The other day I was driving on College Boulevard and saw the house of my cousins’ childhood – also known as my Uncle Stew and Aunt Char’s house. It’s a charming house, and while my visits to the place were limited to occasions such as holidays and graduation parties, its aura brings a smile to my face. And now especially, I won’t be able to pass the residence without hearing my uncle’s unmistakable laugh.

The laugh. His smile. Uncle Stew. Who would’ve thought all that exuberance for life could be laid to rest one day?

-Only Stew could poke his head in front of a camera (on a wedding day photo shoot) and mention, “Pictures aren’t really much fun, unless you’re in them.”  One of my favorite pics is of Doug, Stew and I cutting the cake on our special day.
-Only Stew could cry over a Love Boat episode. Well…only Stew would admit it anyway.
-Only Stew would admit to his pre-teen niece after coming home from rehab, “If I ever won the lottery, I’d say F-___ it. I’m getting drunk.”
-Only Stew could make a somewhat reserved teenager laugh - and even get her to come out of her shell for a bit…no matter how uncomfortable she might have felt. Undoubtedly, I wasn’t the only one.

I don’t have to tell anyone how much Stew’s gift of wit and charm will be missed. He was one of those people that instantly boosted your mood – the type of person you seek out, they type you put “first” on your party list. It was impossible to shy away from the magnetism, because it wasn’t just his “wild and craziness” that drew you in. It was also the way that he showed his true affection. I’m not sure too many uncles would try summer after summer, hours upon hours to coach and encourage “the girl voted most unlikely to ever water ski”. But he did. And eventually (by the time I was maybe a senior in high school), I was able to water ski for a good 30 seconds…We celebrated like I had just taken the gold medal.

A few years ago, I asked my mother a question. “Have you noticed any similarities between my Coley and Uncle Stew?”

At first, she was reluctant to agree. But the more we observed, no one could deny. There was an eerie resemblance. A zest for life. And inability to sit still. And the clincher: a love for their own jokes. When Mom brought this to Stew’s attention, he only replied, “Well, let’s just hope he grows out of it.”  

Well, let’s just hope he doesn’t. Because whether Cole realizes it or not, he keeps the amazing spirit of my uncle within my heart. What a gift.
Uncle Stew...waiting to cut the cake.

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