Joseph William Stewart’s life was notable for his positive impact on others. His family, friends, and Army comrades could always depend on Joe’s help to address any challenge. Born to Mildred Mae Frailey and C. Ralph Stewart in Kittanning, PA, Joe had three siblings: Bob, Jim, and Susie. Joe grew up in Ford City, PA, where he was a good student, starred on his high school basketball team, and developed a keen interest in all sports.
Joe entered West Point in July 1957 with the Class of 1961. His amiable nature and positive attitude inspired Joe’s classmates, helping them to overcome the challenges of cadet life. Those who knew Joe well at West Point remained his lifelong friends.
As a newly commissioned engineer officer at Fort Belvoir, VA, a classmate’s fiancée introduced Joe to her Cornell roommate, Marilynn Schade. Lightning struck, and Joe and Marilynn were married at Fort Meade, MD in 1962 while Joe was serving with the 19th Engineer Battalion, his first assignment. Joe’s first overseas assignment was with the 809th Engineer Battalion in Thailand. Then followed College Station, TX, where Joe earned a master’s degree from Texas A&M. Two Vietnam assignments were then sandwiched around the Engineer Officer Advanced Course and service with the 5th Engineer Battalion. As a major, Joe served overseas as a facilities engineer for the Army in Okinawa and Taiwan. As a lieutenant colonel, he served as the Chief Engineer for SHAPE in Belgium, Professor of Military Science at California Polytechnic State University, and Director of Facilities Engineering for Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, VA. As a colonel, his last military assignment was in New York City as the Deputy for the North Atlantic Division, Corps of Engineers. Among other responsibilities, Joe was the Deputy Program Manager for the Army’s top priority military construction program at Fort Drum, NY. Joe’s many awards included two Bronze Stars and the Legion of Merit. In all of his Army assignments, Joe demonstrated a strong measure of professional pride and expertise, and he never abandoned his sense of humor or his deep respect for and support of his comrades and subordinates.
Upon retirement from the Army in 1989, Joe stayed in New York and took on demanding jobs with the New York City School Construction Authority. He served first as Chief Project Officer for a $950 million construction program in the Bronx and then as Senior Director of Project Management for the Authority’s $4.3 billion design and construction program. Upon retirement from this job in 1994, Joe was commended for “major contributions to the complete spectrum of activities of the School Construction Authority.” Joe’s last job was with the NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority as Director of Construction Oversight.
Joe was blessed with a close and supportive family. His loving wife, Marilynn, provided outstanding support during their 28 Army years and during Joe’s demanding and successful civilian engineering management career. For his 50th West Point Reunion biographical sketch, Joe reflected that “the most important (thing in my life) was my wonderful wife and lifelong soulmate. Marilynn, our three children, their spouses, and our granddaughter are the greatest joy of my life.”
Daughter Pamela Marie Stewart remembers her Dad’s wonderful sense of humor and one particular story that proves it. Joe confessed that he tormented an unpopular high school shop teacher by continually saying, “It is a surprise,” when asked what he was making from what started as a door-sized piece of wood. After whittling it down to brick-size and watching his classmates present their bird houses and book cases, Joe told the teacher that his masterpiece was a doorstop. Pam remembers that, after telling the story, her Dad always burst out laughing and says, “That’s how I will always remember him, laughing and making others laugh.”
Son Mike remembers his Dad as a sports enthusiast. “It did not matter if it was Division III lacrosse or archery, he would be rooting for somebody.” Mike said that his father tried to embrace the local professional football teams after living in New York for 27 years, but he was a true Pittsburgh Steelers fan, “even down to his pajamas.” This love of sports started when Joe was a youngster. Joe relayed to Mike that his Ford City basketball team once took on Wilt Chamberlain’s high school team in a playoff game but their “box and one” strategy (four guys on seven-foot-tall Wilt) proved less than successful as he still scored about 50 points.
Daughter Nancy Lynn remembers Joe’s devotion to her daughter, his granddaughter, Viv, and their special relationship beginning with babysitting duties, which included storytelling, walks, park visits, and ice cream purchases: “He delighted in her achievements in dance, piano, and tennis.” Nancy remembered that after his retirement, her Dad and Mother opened the house in Southold on Long Island to her friends during visits to NYC, and she said, “I would often find him sitting at the kitchen table entertaining them with his stories. He had such great stories and such a great laugh.”
Marilynn and the family remember Joe’s devotion to them, his unswerving pride in their achievements, and how his wonderful sense of humor enhanced their lives. Those blessed with Joe’s friendship echo these sentiments.
Joe, your family and many friends miss you and your classmates salute you. “Well done; Be Thou at Peace.”
— Gene Witherspoon, Classmate and Friend