Colonel Walter Travis Stewart, 98, passed away peacefully Saturday, January 9, surrounded by family. He was born in Benjamin, Utah, at the old family farm, on November 8, 1917, in the same house that he lived most of his life. He was the tenth of twelve children born to Otto Ren and Millicent Tollstrup Stewart. He grew up in a loving home that was full of great memories that stayed with him all of his life. He talked fondly of the family sitting around the old stove playing games and singing songs. His family provided the foundation he would use to live his life: love of family, county, and of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
His education was in Provo and Salt Lake, graduating from South High in 1935. He finished with a bachelor and then a law degree at the University of Utah. His university studies were interrupted first by a mission and then by WWII. His mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was to Scotland, in 1937. When World War II broke out in Europe, he was sent to the Eastern States Mission, and finished in West Virginia.
Military service brought the most memorable experiences of his life. Watching a military airplane fly overhead, he decided he wanted to serve in the War in a plane rather than on the ground. He was trained as a pilot at Victorville, California in 1941. He entered the war being assigned to the 93rd bomb group to fly B-24 bombers. His greatest friend of his life, Hugh Rawlin Roper was in the cockpit with him as they flew 18 missions together, based out of Hardwick, England. He later got to Pilot his own plane, and he named it "The Utah Man" after his beloved University. He finished with 32 missions, his second to last one being the deadly low-level bombing of Ploesti, August 1, 1943. He spent the rest of his life telling the story of courage, sacrifice, and honor from that day. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross for that mission.
He met Ruth Francis on a blind date in California, and they later married December 14, 1944 in the Salt Lake Temple. Together they raised 5 children. Although Walt had a law degree, he loved the construction business. He was a general contractor from the time of his graduation from the U until 1962. He built many homes and businesses all over the state of Utah. With his construction training, the LDS Church called his young family to build chapels in Norwich, England and Flensburg, Germany between 1962-1966. The family came home to Benjamin and he finished his career as a seminary and institute teacher until retirement in 1985.
Their retired years brought two more missions, to Ghana, Africa in 1987-88, and Sierra Leone, in 1990-91. After serving five missions, the golden years brought time to run his farm in Benjamin and visit grandchildren, whom they loved, 29 in all.
Walter died the day of his oldest son's funeral. He is preceded in death by all his siblings, but just barely; his 103 year old sister, Roselle Stewart Judkins, died a week earlier and he attended her funeral. Also preceding him in death was his second son Scott (Valerie Neel), his wife Ruth, and his oldest son, Walter Jr. (Marcia Nielson) died 10 days previous to him. He is survived by daughters Sally Buhler (Slade) and Alexandra Dedrickson (Steve), and son Samuel (Laura Long).
The family would like to thank the kind staff and volunteers at the Veterans home in Payson, and at Mountain View Hospital. Their tears at his passing showed the love they had for our father. The entertainment level at the center has dropped without his spirit gracing its halls.
Funeral services were be held at the Benjamin Chapel West Benjamin, Utah Saturday, January 16, Condolences may be sent to the family at:
Published in Deseret News from Jan. 13 to Jan. 15, 2016