Audrey Stewart, 93, died peacefully on Nov. 30, 2020 in Creswell, Ore. in the home of one of her children. She will be missed, by friends and family alike, for her sweet disposition, her generous spirit, her sense of awe, her love of music, her infectious smile, her light-hearted sense of humor, her respectful and tender love of children, her drive to keep learning, and her ongoing attitude of gratitude. Audrey, the oldest of five daughters, was born to Cora Alice Bunnell Stevia and Frederick Randall Stevia in Portland, Oregon. While growing up in the Northwest, she moved with her family multiple times (Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, Indianola, Seattle) to follow her father’s work. Audrey enjoyed all things musical: tap, piano, voice lessons, cheerleading, marching band practice, drill team, singing lead roles in Roosevelt High School operettas, singing in church, and accompanying her father when he played his violin.
At the age of 18, Audrey married Gerald Eugene (Jerry) Stewart in Glendale, California on June 13, 1945, days before he shipped out to the South Pacific. When Jerry came home for good in 1946, they settled in Seattle, Washington. Daughters Merrilee and Colleen arrived in 1948 and 1950. The family of four moved to California in 1952, when Jerry was hired by the National Bureau of Standards to work for the Missile Development division (later Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Corona). Daughter Kathy and son Tim joined the family in 1952 and 1954. The family of six was complete.
Music was a priority for Audrey even while raising a family. She practiced the piano and sang scales at home; drove her children to piano lessons; sang in the adult choir and directed the children’s choir at her church in Corona; selected music for her daughters to sing trios; offered music lessons in the public schools to third and fourth graders; invested in her own collection of Orff instruments; and even took up the harp in the 1990s. Audrey was a devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, a creative homemaker, an excellent cook, an exacting seamstress, an advocate for children, an avid reader, a diligent letter-writer and record-keeper, an active volunteer, a generous friend, and a gracious hostess (neighborhood kids and friends of her children were always welcome, relatives sometimes stayed with the family for months).
Audrey pursued her higher education when the first of her children began college. She earned an AA from Riverside City College in 1969, a BS from University of California, Riverside in 1971, a teaching credential from UCR in 1974, and an MA from Pacific Oaks College in 1986. She and Jerry ran Early Ventures for infants and toddlers for three years. After this closed they ran their own certified infant/toddler care center — Infant-I-See — in their home for six years, primarily to care for their two young granddaughters who lived nearby in Riverside.
After living 44-plus years in Corona, Audrey and Jerry moved to Jerry’s aunt Mae Stewart’s former home in Riverside in 2000. Fifteen years later, a year after Jerry died, Audrey moved back up to the Northwest to live with her daughter and son-in-law, Colleen and Tom. Her musical endeavors while in Creswell included singing with the Creswell Community Singers, singing at church and at home, playing the piano, going to concerts at the Hult Center (her favorite being the Eugene Symphony), and listening to music at home.
Tom and Colleen wish to thank Merrilee and Marty for welcoming Audrey into their home on the Oregon coast for extended stays many times over the past five years. Special thanks and appreciation are also extended to Vanessa Vogel, Audrey’s in-home caregiver, who provided the couple with much-needed respite. Vanessa’s loving, caring and positive energy helped everyone through the final year of Audrey’s life.
Audrey was preceded in death by her sisters VeNeva, Priscilla and Carol Ann. She is survived by: her sister Ricci (Greg) Sloan and sister-in-law Justine Stolte; her children: Merrilee (Marty) Howard, Colleen (Tom Partridge) Stewart, Kathy (Bob) Conover, Tim (Jill) Stewart; her grandchildren: Erika Brooke, Heather Howard, Levi (Lily) Conover, Ian (Tara) Conover, Kaely (Bryan) Owen, Tess (Sean) Jackson; her great-grandchildren: Mila Conover, Naomi Conover, Emersyn Owen, Everett Owen and Renn Jackson; as well as many nieces and nephews and their offspring.
A memorial will be planned for Audrey when it is safe to gather. Contributions in Audrey’s memory may be made to any of the following: The Bell Choir Program of the First Presbyterian Church, 216 S. 3rd St., Cottage Grove, OR 97424; The Eugene Symphony, 115 West 8th Ave., Suite 115, Eugene, OR 97401; The Carillon Bell Tower Fund, UCR Foundation, PO Box 112, Riverside, CA 92502; or a charity of your choice.