Mara Stewart Kleckner

Mara Stewart Kleckner, Actress, Artist and Bon Vivant, has died in San Marcos, California at the age of 86.

Mara had varied careers in her long and interesting life. After her graduation from the College of William and Mary in Virginia she taught high school classes in English and art while also hosting her own children's show on local television.

Her college studies were focused on art and art history and she was an avid painter in oils. She revered the work of Vincent Van Gogh and often marked the anniversary of his death with a display of fresh sunflowers.

Mara had a life-long interest in theater and acting, winning honors for her roles in local theater productions.
After moving to California in the 1960s, she studied for several years with Lee Strasberg, the master teacher, at his Actor's Studio in Hollywood. She was a member of both the Screen Actor's Guild and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. She performed under the name Mary Stewart.

Her resume listed a number of unusual skills. Mara was an able driver of off-road vehicles on rough terrain, she was a qualified marksman with various weapons and had trained to pilot single-engine aircraft.

Mara had parts in commercials, television series and several movies, though acting was a sideline for her. She worked as a social worker for 10 years and then returned to college for an advanced degree in psychology. She was a licensed therapist in private practice with her late husband, Dr. James H. Kleckner of San Diego, for many years.

Mara loved professional football and she and her husband were friends with several members of the San Diego Chargers. She remained devoted to the sport in her later years and closely followed her beloved team.

Mara enjoyed traveling and visited Central America, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. She loved Hawaii and spent many happy days on the beaches there. Israel was her favorite foreign nation, and she was most proud of her service as a volunteer with the Israeli Defense Forces.

Mara did three tours with the IDF when she was in her 60s and won the respect of the young men and women with whom she served. At one of the Israeli military bases, where she helped repair tanks, the soldiers named a garden in her honor.

Mara was born in Roanoke, Virginia. She was the youngest of four siblings and her brothers Estil, Paul and Harry predeceased her.

Mara moved with her parents to Portsmouth, Va., during World War II and there she met and married Jack Stewart, a Navy journalist. They had one son.

Mara is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, John and Donna Stewart, and her favorite niece, Cheryle Hugo, and her children Kurt and Kara.

Published in U-T San Diego from Oct. 14 to Oct. 15, 2013