Jess E. Stewart
WAMEGO- Jess E. Stewart, 87, a lifetime resident of Wamego, Kansas passed away in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 30, 2013, in Tampa, Florida. Jess was born April 25, 1925 in Wamego, the son of Ruth J. Machin and Harold E. Stewart. He graduated from Wamego High School and served in the US Navy during WWII. Following the war, Jess enrolled at the University of Kansas and graduated in 1948. While at KU, he was a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity and was very active in student activities. Later, he continued his education in Chicago, graduating with honors from Worsham College of Mortuary Arts.
Upon his graduation, he returned to Wamego to join the business interests of his father Harold and uncle, Glenn Stewart. Following the death of his uncle and the retirement of his father, Jess continued the operation of J.E. Stewart & Sons Hardware and Furniture along with the Stewart Funeral Home, which was established by his grandfather J.E. Stewart in 1897.
On June 4, 1950 he married Lauranell Hawkinson at Manhattan, she survives. To this union were born two daughters and one son.
During his life, Jess served in several positions in the Wamego community and for the State of Kansas. He was instrumental in starting the first Wamego Chamber of Commerce and was its first secretary. He was elected the youngest mayor of Wamego at the time Wamego changed from a mayor-council to commission-city manager form of government. Jess was elected President of the Wamego Unified School District No. 320 Board of Education at the time of school unification in Kansas. Subsequently he served in many other local and State positions, including the Wamego City Library Board, treasurer of the Wamego Historical Society, treasurer of the American Legion Harold Johnson Post. He served as chairman of both Centennial Celebrations for Kansas and for Wamego. He was honored by the Kansas Funeral Directors Association for his service to his community, State and his profession for over 50 years.
From 1972 to 1998, Jess was the Vice President of Property Management at Hall’s Crown Center in Kansas City, and later for several years at Kroh Brothers Property Development in Kansas City, Missouri. He enjoyed the work and had many stories, memories and paintings from the Hallmark artists as remembrances. As much as he enjoyed his Kansas City job and Kansas City, upon retirement he returned to the home town that he loved so dearly, Wamego.
Jess was appointed by Governor Robert Docking to the State of Kansas Board of Regents and served on the board for eight years, two of which he served as chairman. During that time, he had the honor of giving the commencement speech for both Kansas State University and University of Kansas graduation ceremonies.
He was a lifelong member of the Wamego United Methodist Church and was its organist for over thirty years. His other memberships include the Wamego Masonic Lodge, Wamego I.O.O.F., the American Legion Harold Johnson Post, the Wamego Senior Center, a former member of the Arab Shrine Temple of Topeka, and Wamego Country Club. Jess’s interests were many, including his family, church, University of Kansas Athletics, golf and especially his hobby of cooking.
He is survived by his wife, Lauranell of the home; two daughters: Brynn Stewart of Manhattan, Brett Stewart-Platt and husband Greg of Wamego; one son: Bart and wife Jenny of Wamego; four grandsons: Ames Howard, Mason Stewart, Dane Stewart, Spencer Stewart; two granddaughters: Brook Stockebrand, Piper Howard; two great-granddaughters, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his sister Beth Rogers.
Funeral services will be Friday, April 5, 2013, 10:30 a.m. at the Stewart Funeral Home of Wamego. Burial will follow in the Wamego City Cemetery. Mr. Stewart will lie in-state at the funeral home beginning at noon Thursday, with a visitation from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to the Wamego Historical Society and may be left in care of Stewart Funeral Home of Wamego, P.O. Box 48, 66547. Condolences may be left at www.stewartfuneralhomes.com.