In Remembrance of W. Woodrow Stewart
W. Woodrow Stewart, a brilliant attorney and cornerstone of the regional law firm of Stewart Melvin & Frost, once wrote that life is a journey "full of accomplishments and challenges, miracles and tragedy, and a lot in between."
Life on earth ended January 9, 2012, for "Woody" Stewart, 73, of Gainesville, Ga. - but not before he impacted countless lives in between his lifetime devotion to his family, his profession, his community, and his faith. His funeral will be held Thursday, January 12, at 10:30 a.m., at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Gainesville. The family will receive friends at the church after the service in the church parish hall.
Mr. Stewart grew up in nearby Jefferson, where early on he demonstrated a keen mind and hard work ethic. His childhood friend John Melvin, who would eventually become his law partner, described Mr. Stewart as having an unusual sense of duty and tenacity that inspired everyone around him. It was a trait he would carry from the athletic fields of boyhood into the boardrooms and courtrooms of his latter professional career.
A talented athlete, Mr. Stewart attended Furman University on a football scholarship. After earning his bachelor's degree in 1960, he served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, which honored him with the Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service in Okinawa, Japan. He returned home to attend Tulane University Law School, where he graduated with honors before earning his Master's of Law in Taxation from Emory University School of Law.
In 1966, Mr. Stewart moved back to Northeast Georgia, joining a law firm in Gainesville that would eventually bear his name as managing partner. His leadership helped grow Stewart Melvin & Frost into one of today's largest law firms in the region. All the while, Mr. Stewart built a reputation for his expertise in tax and estate planning that drew respect throughout the state. He even contributed his talents to enriching the local economy through participation on the boards of numerous businesses, including Cottrell, McKibbon Brothers, Gibson Dental Designs, First National Bancorp, and Regions Bank.
During this span, Mr. Stewart and his wife of over 50 years, the former Lynda Anne Truluck (his childhood friend and high-school sweetheart from Jefferson) settled in to Gainesville and Hall County to raise their family of two children, Paige and Todd. They embraced the community as their lifetime home, a place all the more blessed for Mr. Stewart's remarkable devotion to civic service.
Mr. Stewart served in a wide span of high-profile community leadership roles that ranged from chairman of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education to president of the Gainesville Kiwanis Club, chairman of the former Lanier Park Hospital, and a member of the Northeast Georgia Health System Board, including its strategic planning, audit, and finance committees. A longtime Sunday School teacher, he led the Deacon Board at First Baptist Church of Gainesville and later was a member of the Vestry at Grace Episcopal Church. He also was a board member of the Roy C. Moore Foundation and the original Gainesville Community Foundation. The accolades followed: Leadership Georgia; Hall County Young Man of the Year; Gainesville Rotary Club's Man of the Year; the American Heart Association's Hearts of Gold Award; and the Chamber's Distinguished Service Award.
Mr. Stewart's greatest satisfaction, however, seemed to come from "championing the underdog," as numerous local non-profits would attest. For example, he was a founding trustee and longtime advisor to the Eagle Ranch Foundation, which has helped hundreds of hurting children and families. Like Eagle Ranch, area non-profits have benefited from Mr. Stewart's counsel and tireless work behind the scenes.
His greatest legacy though is one that will enhance the future health and lives of literally hundreds of thousands of local residents, many of whom ironically may never know his true contribution and impact. For the last decade and a half, Mr. Stewart chaired The Medical Center Foundation, where he practiced his oft-cited personal creed that "philanthropy is the difference between a good hospital and a great hospital."
It seems only fitting that a man with such a big heart helped launch the Medical Center's own heart program, now recognized as the best in Georgia, through Mr. Stewart's direct involvement in securing a $4 million gift to start the Ronnie Green Heart Center. Under Mr. Stewart's leadership, the Foundation has raised over $34 million on behalf of Northeast Georgia Medical Center - an uncommon benchmark for a non-teaching hospital. The Foundation funds also provided direct support to 48 community organizations such as the Georgia Mountain Food Bank and SafeKids.
Mr. Stewart's passion and vision have inspired a spirit and culture of philanthropy that - coupled with his contributions to the legal and business communities - will be felt well beyond his lifetime for generations of Northeast Georgians.
He is survived by his wife, Lynda Truluck Stewart; daughter, Paige Stewart Green of Gainesville; son Todd Woodrow Stewart of Atlanta; favorite grandson, Will Green and favorite granddaughter, Garrett Green; mother-in-law, Nancy Truluck of Panama City, Fla.; sister-in-law, Jeannie Truluck of Panama City, Fla.; brother-in-law and wife, Dan and Mary Katherine Truluck of Gainesville; brother-in-law and wife, Don and Sue Truluck of Watkinsville; godchildren Camper Mundy, Charlie Newman, Stephanie White Kohla and Susanne White Wallace; and many other cousins, nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family would like to request contributions be made to The Medical Center Foundation, 2150 Limestone Pkwy, Suite 115, Gainesville, GA 30501; Grace Episcopal Church, 422 Brenau Ave., Gainesville, GA 30501; Furman University Purple Pounders Endowed Scholarship, 3300 Poinsett Hwy, Greenville, S.C. 29613; Eagle Ranch, P.O. Box 7200, Chestnut Mountain, GA 30502; or the charity of your choice.
Little and Davenport Funeral Home of Gainesville is in charge of arrangements.