Coon Rapids man celebrates 100th birthday

Don Stewart celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends.

Family members gather around Don Stewart before he blows on the candles on his cake. Photo by Kelly Johnson

Family members gather around Don Stewart before he blows on the candles on his cake. Photo by Kelly Johnson

There was no shortage of laughter at a party in his honor May 8. Often it was Stewart providing a joke or remark that caused the room at DeMar, an assisted living facility in Coon Rapids, to erupt in laughter.

Stewart was born May 8, 1912, in Grand Forks, N.D., the youngest of three boys. As a youngster he earned the nickname “Smiley” because of his cheerful demeanor.

He spent much of his childhood moving around following his mother’s death when Stewart was four. He was in various foster homes until he graduated from high school.

Today Stewart is the patriarch of a family that includes eight children, 21 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Stewart met his wife Beatrice in 1933 at a Saturday night dance in East Grand Forks. The couple married six months later on July 8.

He was 21 and Beatrice 19. In 2008, at the age of 96 and 94 respectively, the couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

They celebrated their 76th anniversary before Beatrice’s death.

“We had intentions of going for 80, but she got a little tired of looking at me,” Stewart said with a laugh.

Stewart worked for the Great Northern Railroad as a train dispatcher and safety worker before he retired after 44 years.

“He’s been retired almost as long as he’s worked,” said his son Jim Stewart.

The Stewarts moved from Grand Forks, N.D., to St. Paul in 1956. Then they moved to Wisconsin for a bit after retirement before moving to Anoka in 1984. They came to Coon Rapids in 2004, with Stewart moving to DeMar two years ago.

Together the Stewarts enjoyed traveling, visiting Europe twice as well as England and Scotland.

It was in Scotland where Stewart was able to enjoy another of the couple’s passions – golf.

While in Scotland, Stewart arose at 5 a.m. and headed to play the legendary course at St. Andrew’s. He walked all 18 holes at the age 68.

His passion for golf began as a youngster when he would caddy at the local country club.

It continued throughout his life, with Stewart carding four holes in one after age 65. His last hole in one was at age 88.

He played golf at Bunker Hills Golf Course well into his 90s.

Stewart attributes his longevity to “luck of the draw.”

He likes to look in the mirror and say “you lucky son of a gun,” Stewart said.

According to Stewart, he is also fond of watching golf on television and spending time with his family. There’s also many games of cribbage played, often with Stewart coming out on top.

Kelly Johnson is at kelly.johnson@ecm-inc.com

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