Thomas Stewart

by Tamara Von Gemmingen

Judge Thomas B. Stewart died Dec. 12, 2007, surrounded by his children, grandchildren and dear friends in his hometown of Juneau. He was 88.
All are invited to a celebration of Tom's life at 1 p.m. April 5 at Centennial Hall in Juneau.
Born Jan. 1, 1919, he lived every day as if it were his last and acted as though he would live forever. He was a devoted husband, a loyal father and a great friend to many.
As a youngster growing up in Juneau, Tom learned to climb mountains, hunt, fish, boat, identify gold veins, pick currant berries, build fires in damp conditions, whistle, spot a goat and scare off brown bears.
An ancient skier, Tom was a captain in the Ski Troops during World War II, first serving at Kiska with the 87th Mountain Infantry (10th Mountain Division). In Italy, he fought in one of the fastest drives of the war while crossing the Po from Mount Belvedere to the Alps. Awarded silver and bronze stars, he stood proudly when his hero, Brig. Gen. George P. Hays, pinned a star on him and shook his hand.
After he retired, Tom returned to Italy and retraced the steps of the 10th Mountain troops. Grateful villagers greeted the vets with hugs and kisses. He also returned to desolate Kiska for the 50th anniversary reunion, which included both American and Japanese vets.
After his discharge from the Army, Tom spent a happy, carefree summer backpacking around Alaska before returning to school. He earned a law degree from Yale and also studied Russian, political science and liberal arts.
Tom chaired the Joint House and Senate Committee on Statehood and was the chief organizer of the Alaska Constitutional Convention. He was a gifted storyteller with an extraordinary memory for detail; and his book detailing the rigorous and scholarly preparations undertaken prior to the convention is nearly complete.
Tom served as secretary to the Constitutional Convention and during that time experienced a "heart" problem that was "cured" by marriage to his sweetheart, Jane McMullin, a professional musician and community organizer. Together they raised seven children.
They were known for hosting teas with guests from around the world, including John F. Kennedy and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Accomplished performers, they ensured everyone was entertained. Tom never tired of reciting "The Ballad of Yukon Jake" or singing ski songs. Jane and the kids played piano. Tom shared his love of reading with his children, to whom he read every night. He also shared his passion for the outdoors and took the family fishing and camping up the Taku, around Admiralty, and on road trips into the Interior and Canada.
During his professional life, Tom served in the territorial and state legislatures, administered the court system and served 15 years as a Superior Court judge. He was considered to be among the most prepared, patient, fair and warm-hearted on the bench.
In retirement, he presided over many settlements, donated countless hours to boards and commissions, enjoyed performances in the art community, traveled extensively, gave guided tours of Juneau to his steady stream of visitors, and delighted in the company of his many friends, of whom he often spoke with fondness and admiration.
In August 2007, he brought his family to the Denver "Hale and Farewell" 10th Mountain Reunion, where he had a chance to show off his family and renew a lifetime of friendships. This was his last trip.
His wife, Jane Stewart, and their youngest son, Thomas, preceded him in death.
He is survived by six children: Rebecca Stewart (Eugene, Ore.), Donna Stewart (Mill Valley, Calif.), Elizabeth Hendricks (Anchorage), Stephen and wife Ann Stewart (Anchorage), Mary Etheridge and partner, Larry Russo (Juneau) and Caleb Stewart and friend, Michelle Sydeman (Juneau);
grandchildren, Audra Stewart, Lindsay Hendricks, Jared Hendricks, Jessica Etheridge Dillon and Clayton Etheridge; siblings, John and Jeannette Stewart; and nieces, nephews and extended family.
The family is creating a memory album to share at the celebration and would be honored to receive your memory, tribute and/or photos of Tom. Send them to or Donna Stewart, PO Box 776, Mill Valley, CA 94942

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