Nona Stewart, 91, passed away Feb. 15, 2018, at Crouse Community Center with her four children surrounding her, just as she liked best, being right in the middle of any family activity. Her journey with Alzheimer’s began 25 years earlier as she nursed her husband, Jack, for years as he suffered from the same disease, becoming an Alzheimer’s support group leader, later ironically falling victim to the disease too.
Few things prevented Nona from embracing life, travel and working as a champion of justice – even in January of 2017, she desperately wanted to participate in the Women’s March in Washington, as she had marched with Martin Luther King so many years earlier. Nona was a gourmet cook, a new found lover of animals, and a daily reader of the NY Times for 75 years.
Nona’s marriage to our wonderful dad, Col. Jack Stewart, was extraordinarily happy. Through his military career, Nona traveled the world, living in Japan, Germany and points in the U.S. Finally settling in the CNY area, Nona, while winding down in her child rearing, worked with Trinity Church of Fayetteville as the first female deacon, and she became instrumental in sponsoring Vietnamese refugees. This experience eventually lead to Nona’s full time career, founding the InterFaith Works Refugee Resettlement Program, today called The Center for New Americans. In her 20 years of work with refugees, Nona helped settle over 6,000 people from Southeast Asia, Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, Haiti, Ukraine, Bosnia and Kosovo to the Syracuse area. She traveled to Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand, as well as in the former Russia, to have direct meetings with UN officials in charge, but usually smuggling in money in her bra to provide immediate help to the suffering people she met there. In recognition of her longtime work helping others, Nona was awarded the Jefferson Award in 1993, the Martin Luther King Human Rights Award in 1996, and was honored with the Interfaith Works Leadership Award in 2013.
Nona leaves behind four children, daughters Allyn Stewart, Jean Stewart Dally, Kate Stewart all of Cazenovia, and son, Mark Stewart (Madge), grandchildren Alex Winters (Rich), John McCarroll (Kacie Kocher), Joshua Stewart, Kathryn Stewart, and treasured first great-grandson, Logan.
The family would like to express sincere thanks to the kind and loving nursing staff and CMAs who were so gentle and sweet to our precious mom.
A celebration of Nona’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Fayetteville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Center for New Americans in Syracuse.