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James Joseph Stewart passed peacefully at home on his 40th wedding anniversary in the early hours of April 23, 2023 following struggles with lung cancer treatment. Born in Bakersfield on September 9, 1952, Jim was the second of six children and the oldest son of Joseph L. Stewart and Gloria JoAnn (Fitzgerald) Stewart. He attended Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fairview School, Greenfield Junior High, and was a graduate of South High School, Class of 1970. As a boy and young man, he enjoyed Boy Scouts, motorcycles, camping, and woodworking. He took his role of big brother to his four younger siblings very seriously. After high school, Jim held a variety of jobs including cook, foundry worker, and rig hand. When the opportunity to learn a trade arose, he found his true calling as a machinist, first at Carter Machine in Wasco and then at Bakersfield Machine Company (BMC Industries) for more than 20 years. His careful attention to the fine details of precision work garnered much praise from his employers. Ongoing issues with his back forced him to retire early. He greatly missed the camaraderie of the shop and the challenge of the work.
Jim met Mary Anne Steele on a blind date arranged by his brother Mike. Reluctant as she was at first, she soon warmed to his charm and thoughtfulness, and they married on April 23, 1983. The following year on Christmas Day, Jim declared himself “the happiest person on the planet” when their daughter Elizabeth was born, and his happiness continued when the family expanded in May 1987 with the birth of their second daughter, Margaret. He was an enthusiastic and engaged dad, delighting in sharing his goofy sense of humor and diligently assembling all the toys. Jim was a good cook whose spaghetti sauce, stew, and grilling skills were much in demand by his family. He loved airplanes, especially vintage aircraft, and enjoyed attending air shows with his dad and brothers.
Jim made it a point to keep in touch with friends and relatives over many years, primarily through telephone calls. A serious fall in 2018 resulted in aphasia, limiting his speech abilities and his social contact which he sorely missed. Even with these challenges, Jim was friendly to everyone he encountered and his expressive face left little doubt about his thoughts.
The death of his older daughter, Elizabeth Catherine, in 2022 deeply saddened Jim, though they are now reunited. He is also predeceased by his parents and sister, Vicki Tyler. He is survived by his wife, Mary Anne Steele, daughter Margaret Anne Stewart of Scottsdale, AZ and four siblings: Michael Stewart, Lori Kayes, and Daniel Stewart of Bakersfield and Kathleen Duckworth, Weleetka, OK as well as a host of nieces, nephews, and cousins.
His family is grateful for the health care provided by Dr. William Gilli and his staff at Mesa West Medical and for Tasha Oakes, Karen Kelly, and the staff at Affiliated Speech Pathology in helping Jim to find a voice once again. If so inclined, please make a blood donation in Jim’s memory or donate to a charity of your choosing.
Rosary will be recited at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3 at Doughty-Calhoun-O’Meara chapel, 1100 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, with visitation from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial is at 10:00 a.m., Thursday, May 4 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 124 Columbus Street. Interment will follow at Historic Union Cemetery.