The Songbird of Mt Zion sings no more.
Jim Stewart suffered a heart attack and passed away Friday, February 21st.
A lifetime filled entertaining crowds acting in local theater, singing the gospels in church and most notably singing the Illinois Fight song at halftime, gave us all enjoyment. Serving as the ambassador for the Mt. Zion Swingsations for many years ,volunteering, judging competitions-He was one of their biggest supporters.
Jim grew up in Pinckneyville IL, son a coal miner, Pop Stewart and Helen Deprest and lived one of the most fascinating lives we could ever imagine. From playing the scotch drum in high school and stealing the show with his performance twirling the drumsticks and throwing them higher than the baton twirler paved his way to earn a degree from SIU in Carbondale.
While in his early teaching career at Lakeland Elementary he coached the undefeated basketball team to Southern Illinois basketball championship beating East St Louis 52-0 in what will most likely be a feat never matched .
Meeting the county extension advisor Jim fell in love with Mary Jo Cunningham and the wild ride started. Their adventures took them to Alaska to teach in Homer and Nome where he survived the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Jim taught math and science as well as teaching the eskimos the game of basketball. While the team did not have much success their Cheerleaders where know as the Mananuska Maids and some say brought the crowds to the games for their cutting edge performances and costumes.
Returning to Decatur, Jim and Mary Jo raised their two boys. Jim was very involved with the Mt Zion athletic booster club, Mt Zion United Methodist Church, Greater Decatur Chorale, Mt Zion Players, Kiwanis and Elwin Methodist Church.
Jim taught 6th grade at Oak Grove and Michael Baum Elementary until retirement. Then volunteered teaching English in Poland over the summers.
Jim and Mary Jo traveled the world and some of the lucky ones of us got the opportunity to watch the slide shows of the adventures abroad. The countries are too many to list.
His passion for the fiber arts soon led to him entering his quilts in the quilt shows and winning for the overall composition and fine stitchery. He worked tirelessly with the quilters at Sharon Methodist Church turning out countless masterpieces.
An avid Cubs fan, he found great relief when the Cubs won the 2016 World Series and had high hopes for this year’s team. Jim was also routing for the Illini men’s basketball team in this year’s Big Ten and NCAA tournament runs.
A Family-led Service will be held Saturday February 29th at Elwin Methodist Church 1260 W Elwin Rd, Elwin IL.
Visitation 10-11am. Service at 11am with a Celebration of life luncheon provided for everyone at noon. Tanzyus Logan Funeral Service and Care is assisting the family with the arrangements.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Mt Zion Swingsations or the Elwin Methodist Church. (Beer or Bourbon also accepted by family members)
Jim is survived by his wife Mary Jo Stewart Brothers Bill and Bob Stewart, Sons Mike ( Barb) and Greg (Katie) Stewart. Grandsons Jack Sam and Reid Stewart.
Please join us in a toast and raise your glass as we give three cheers to the Songbird of Mt Zion.
Please sign the family guestbook below: