Stewart M. Park, 72, beloved husband of Mary Ann, died peacefully on Friday, June 4. His was a life well-lived, filled with family, friends, and laughter.
Stewart was born July 8, 1948, in North Tonawanda, NY and as a member of a military family, he lived in California, Virginia, Alabama, and Germany. While in Germany he attended Heidelberg American High School and made life-long and cherished friends. But he always called Dothan, Alabama home, where he loved to fish, hunt and trap in the woods ala Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. And he always counted fried chicken and grits among his favorite foods.
Stewart married Judy Davis in Dothan and they had three children. He became the youngest policeman in the state of Alabama to “carry a gun and walk a beat.” After two-and-a-half years on the force, he went into the car business, moving from selling cars to managing the finance and insurance office at Solomon Chevrolet. In 1975 World Service Life Insurance Company hired Stewart and moved the Park family to Colorado Springs. A year later Stewart and Judy divorced. Stewart remained in Colorado, continued to work, hunt, practice his guitar, and play softball. (His team went to the National Tournament in Washington, DC in 1977.) He then sold insurance to auto dealers and trained finance and insurance managers at dealerships in Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii. This position prompted another move, this time to Phoenix.
While consulting at a dealership in Tucson one day, a car salesman friend asked him to go on a blind date with the roommate of his date, Mary Ann McHugh. Two years later they became engaged. However, ten days before their wedding day, Stewart suffered a broken neck in a terrible crash while racing a Formula Ford in Riverside, CA. He was airlifted to Phoenix for surgery; their wedding was postponed. On January 9, 1982, Stewart and Mary Ann were married. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Santa Barbara and opened the Stewart Park Buick-Dodge dealership. Two-and-a-half years later, they sold the franchises, moved back to Phoenix, and Stewart joined the Chapman Automotive Group. As President/General Manager, he helped acquire and organize the CAGA Finance Company and several dealerships, including ones in Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, and Henderson, NV. During his eight years with Chapman, he also centralized health insurance, banking, and garage liability insurance for all the dealerships which increased efficiency and maximized Chapman’s bottom line. Stewart became a nationally known skeet shooter and was Arizona State Champion, Montana State Champion, National Skeet Shooting All American and a member of the National All-Star Team. He was a certified instructor and directed the skeet shooting program in Big Sky after Stewart and Mary Ann retired and moved to Big Sky in 1998. He loved to golf, ride horses, hunt, flyfish, snowshoe, cross country ski, travel, plant and harvest wheat in Wolf Point, MT.
Nine years ago, Stewart was diagnosed with MDS. He courageously fought the disease and endured weekly trips to Bozeman Deaconess for treatment. Throughout this battle, Stewart never lost his sense of humor, his dazzling smile and warm laugh, his easy demeanor, or his complete trust in God. He never complained about his treatments or the disease’s progression. A true southern gentleman, he will be remembered for his wit, his folksy wisdom, his kindness, and his faith.
There is not enough room to adequately thank Stewart’s doctors, PAs, nurses, technicians, ‘mixers,’ phlebotomists, pharmacists, schedulers, chefs, and volunteers at Bozeman Health, the Cancer Center, and Big Sky Medical Center. The love and care that these amazing people shared with Stewart cannot be measured. A special thank you to the Big Sky Fire Department for their quick and professional response. You always know that everything is going to be alright when the BSFD team shows up!
Stewart is survived by his wife Mary Ann Park of Big Sky, MT; son Michael Park of Knoxville, TN and daughter, Susan R. Caine of Headland, AL; granddaughter Elizabeth Nicole Caine (Rudy) of Dothan, AL, and grandsons William Joseph Caine (Chrysti) of Slocomb, AL and Stewart Ryan Park of Dothan, AL; four great-grandchildren, Draven, Loren, Brooklyn, and River; brothers Scott Park (Thenia) and Earl Durden (Annette) of Dothan, AL; mother-in-law Dorothy D. McHugh and brother-in-law Kevin McHugh of Tucson, AZ, as well as many wonderful nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Marian C. and Stewart R. Park, his son Russell (Rusty), his brother Ralph, and his sisters Sandie and Dottie.
Stewart leaves behind his hunting and shooting pals, his golf foursomes, friends from around the globe, and the parishioners at St. Joseph’s of Big Sky, who loved to hear Stewart lector at mass.
A Catholic mass will be celebrated for Stewart at The Big Sky Chapel on Thursday, July 8 at 11:00 AM. A celebration of his life will follow immediately at The O’Neill residence, 42530 Gallatin Road, Gallatin Gateway, MT.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Stewart’s name may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (lls.org).