Surrounded by his family, Robert Lane Stuart, 91, passed from this world into heaven a little past noon on Friday, March 8, 2019. His heart told him it was time. And we had to let him go. Robert was born to Oscar and Fleta Stuart on May 12, 1927 in Clinton, South Carolina. His “growing up” years were spent in South Carolina and Georgia, his family finally settling in Star in Montgomery County, North Carolina. Upon hearing of his passing just a few hours later, his 5-year-old great-granddaughter, Madelynn said, “We need to say some nice things about him, so we can send him some love.” So that’s what we are going to do.
He was a Christian and a true friend.
Robert was a “giver.” He supported his church and was a member, along with Pattie, at the First Reformed United Church of Christ in Burlington, NC., where he also served as Treasurer. When his daughters were growing up, he taught Sunday school at St. John’s United Church of Christ, where he was a Deacon. His love of and service to God was important in his life, and his character and actions were genuinely reflective. He would “give you the shirt off his back,” cut your yard, drive you somewhere, help you when you were in need and never ask for what you could give him in return. One of his greatest pleasures, in his later years, was gathering with old buddies at the local Biscuitville for a cup of coffee and just a bit of banter and reminiscing. This was the kind of man he was.
He loved his country.
At seventeen, after having just graduated from Star High School in 1944, Robert didn’t wait to be drafted. He said goodbye to his family and beloved high school sweetheart and future wife, Pattie, and joined the United States Naval Reserve. He joined both his brothers in military service. During his time in the Navy, Robert worked his way up to a 3rd Class Signalman and served on a submarine tender, the USS Apollo. Although he professed his profound homesickness and lost one brother during the war, he never questioned the sacrifice he and his brothers had accepted for their country. This was the kind of man he was.
He was committed to his work.
We considered Robert to be quite the math aficionado. Western Electric must have felt that way too, because he worked for them as an accountant in Burlington, for a short time in New Jersey, and then when they became AT&T Lucent Technologies. After retirement, Robert continued to share his “knowledge of numbers” by working part-time with H&R Block. Robert never turned down a friend, family member or acquaintance’s request for assistance in preparing their taxes. This was the kind of man he was.
He had an endearing quest for knowledge.
After returning from his Naval service, his commitment to building a family with Pattie and earning a living were huge priorities. Although not finishing college during his initial enrollment at Elon College was something he regretted, his commitment to learn and grow was rewarded through his eventual graduation from Elon. His daughters were lucky enough to see the results of what hard work, desire, and a love of learning meant. They attended his graduation. Robert was a tinkerer, a teacher, a late blooming golfer and tennis player, an unparalleled bridge player, and a solver of problems and puzzles. If he didn’t know how to do something, Robert studied it until he did know. He even joined a group of his buddies and attended classes at the community college. There, he learned how to hang a light fixture, install an engine in a Volkswagen and repair just about anything. Robert’s love of knowledge never waned. He was an inspiration to all who knew him. For he challenged us to never give up, to never rest on our laurels, and to constantly strive to always be better. This was the kind of man he was.
He loved his family.
Robert married Pattie Elizabeth Cochran on July 24, 1948. She confessed that in high school, she did have her eyes on him. There was just something about him. She remembers being asked to deliver a note to him in his class, one day, and “shook” when she handed it to him. 71 years later, their love still endures. They had three daughters, Judy Lynne, Beth Lee, and Amy Jo. Each of them married: Judy to Andy Phillips, Beth to Jim Gurley, and Amy to Gray Jones. Judy and Andy have two daughters, now married with families: Carrie to Chas, with daughter Marian and son Sullivan and Stacey to Ben, with daughters Madelynn and Finley. His beloved daughter, Beth, who passed away in September 2018 and Jim have three daughters with families: Meredith to Craig and his two children, Jackson and Reese, Kathryn to Gustavo and Sara to Adam. Amy and Gray have two sons and a daughter: Stuart with his family, Emilee and youngest great-grandson (the newest light in Pattie’s life) Landon, and Michael and Liz, currently enrolled at NC State.
When once asked, “What aspects of his life have been the most satisfactory?” He answered: “Most satisfactory would be my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.” To his family, he was a man with a gentle heart who always put others first. His grandchildren loved being around him, because he told amazing stories. Clearly, his sense of humor was unparalled. Even as he was slipping away from us, reminding him of one of his classics: “How many three-cent stamps in a dozen?” provided an especially poignant moment as the family told him good-bye during his last moments. This was the kind of man he was.
In a world that is struggling right now to find real examples of humanity, genuine goodness, decency and love, all we have to do is look at the life of this fine man. Robert Lane Stuart was one of the good guys. He will be sorely missed.
We hope he can feel our love even now. We love you Daddy. We love you Granddaddy. We love you Great-Granddaddy. We love you Robert.
A Celebration of Life Service will be conducted at the First Reformed United Church of Christ on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. by Rev. Phillip R. Myers with a reception following the service at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made through: Peacehaven Community Farm, 1458 NC HWY 61, Whitsett, NC 27377, peacehavenfarm.org or First Reformed United Church of Christ, 513 W. Front Street, Burlington, NC 27215, firstreformeducc.org.