When I was first introduced to "Barefoot Stew” at the local chapter of our national aviators' fraternity in 1973, he immediately impressed me as a colourful and fascinating character. He was so popular with fellow wing-wearers that he led our group for thirty-two years. Later on he was elected to the national executive committee and became its chairman for two years, before his health started to decline.
Stew became my close friend and mentor--and the longer I knew him, the more I admired his many attributes. He was a natural leader, master of ceremonies, parliamentarian, raconteur, public speaker, and humorist extraordinaire. More importantly, Stew made others feel like they were interesting characters, too!
A World War II and Korean War-era veteran of the US Army Air Corps and the USAF, Stew’s flying background was well-known to the Quiet Birdmen fraternity. Less well-known were his accomplishments in civilian life: pre-NASCAR stock car driver & mechanic; champion water skier, pioneer barefoot water skier, and hang gliding performer for Dick Pope at Cypress Gardens; ski instructor to several Miss Americas, including Cornelia Wallace; senior judge; writer/author; TV sports announcer; television producer, making commercials for--among others--Cadillac Division of General Motors; member of the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) and Florida Motion Pictures/Television Association (FMPTA), with minor movie roles including a walk-on part in "Strategic Air Command" and at least one unreleased “Spaghetti Western”; and television commercial roles & print advertisements for Vitalis hair dressing, outboard motors, and others.
Stew was elected President of the American Barefoot Water Skiers in 1989 and was inducted into the American Water Ski (AWSEF) Hall of Fame in 1992. He will be missed . . .