Family and friends gathered Saturday
Family and friends gathered Saturday, February 11th, at 1 PM at Chapel A of Calverton National Cemetery for a memorial service for Gladys Cecelia Stewart. She had died December at home in the apartment her son had prepared for her, following a long illness. She was 87 years old at the time of her passing.
It had been my privilege to be her pastor for nine years following the merger of Elim Swedish and Sunset Park Norwegian United Methodist Churches in 1964. Three of her four children were in the youth fellowship which I supervised (or was it they who supervised me?). Gladys's husband, Don, who had predeceased her by ten years, was the Cubmaster for the Pack at the Norwegian church some years before the merger.
Over the years since my departure from Brooklyn for a church fourteen miles to the east in Valley Stream, the Stewarts and the Howards kept in touch. Daughter Marilyn would have it no other way. I was their personal chaplain: officiating at the weddings of three of four children; baptizing three of the ten grandchildren; confirming two of the grandchildren; and officiating at Gladys' Dad's funeral and Don's funeral. In between there were a couple of hospital visits and, at least once, a service of home communion.
Long Island weather in February, with the wind coming off the water, can be a chancy thing. But the sun was out, the site of the interment sheltered, and the gathering lively, as lively and seemly, that is, as the purpose of the occasion permitted. Son David read from the Gospel according to John. Grandson Robert offered his poem honoring grandma. I spoke of familial love as a window onto heaven. The throng of forty joined hands and sang, as they had sung many times before, "Blest Be the Tie That Binds." We lingered by the chapel, not wanting to say "goodbye" to Gladys.
We drove back west to East Setauket for a reception in Gladys' apartment, at 5 Flint Court, where Donny and Chrissy raised three children, and where Gladys found shelter in her last couple of years. Children I had baptized, confirmed, and married filled the house. Some of those "children," veterans of the youth fellowship in the 1960's, prompted many fond and mostly happy recollections of pranks and adventures when the world was young and we were too. A buffet lunch in Mom's room occasioned many photo "ops," the consequences of which follow.
We were anxious to get moving with the return trip to West Hartford. A blizzard had been forecast, and we had yet to negotiate the ferry across Long Island Sound. As we made to go, Marilyn called us to attention and presented me with gifts, in Mom's room and in her honor. Barbara and I plan to spend our 51st wedding anniversary at The Village Inn in Lenox MA, a country inn Michael Stephenson, a connoisseur of such lodgings, had selected from the Internet. Marilyn handed me a photo album filled with nostalgic pictures of the Howard chaplaincy not only to the Stewarts but to the MYFers of yore. Some of those photos appear below.
Here are some cameos of those present for the funeral service and reception, photos replete with strong and happy memories for a young pastor no longer young who found himself in Brooklyn many years ago, wondering what on earth he was doing there, far from his Connecticut Yankee roots, and discovering over the next fifty years that God's mercy and providence had a far better idea in mind for him among the children and grandchildren of (mostly) Scandinavian immigrants.