XENIA — A former Xenia city manager, who served during the 1974 tornado, has died.
Robert D. Stewart Jr., 87, died July 18 in Xenia.
He was born June 24, 1930 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, the son of the late Robert D. Stewart, Sr. and Mary (Fiscus) Stewart.
He married Yvonne E. (Allison) Stewart in 1954 and they had seven children — three daughters and four sons.
Before his time in Xenia, Stewart served as police chief in Madeira, building a 17-year career in law enforcement.
Outside of his career, he was always very active — holding memberships in many organizations, including the Masons, Elks, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), National Rifle Association (NRA), International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
But community members remember Stewart for his tenure in Xenia, where he served as city manager for 15 years.
David Spahr was an administrative assistant when Stewart came to Xenia as city manager. It wasn’t very long until Stewart promoted Spahr to assistant city manager.
“He was a wonderful man, he really was,” Spahr said in a phone interview. “I enjoyed working for him very much.”
Spahr worked with Stewart for the whole 15-year time frame, including when the 1974 tornado struck.
“The town was absolutely devastated,” Spahr said. “We lost a lot of our houses in town and half of our downtown.”
According to Spahr, Stewart was instrumental in rebuilding the city.
“He helped lead the city efforts to help the community to recover. He helped organize the efforts to get the town rebuilt and really helped it redevelop,” Spahr said.
Among his efforts, Stewart was on the Spirit of ‘74 Committee, Spahr recalled, and helped get federal funds to build the Xenia downtown square.
“He really did a great job for us. But he didn’t do it overnight — it took over four years to get that done,” Spahr continued. “He was a great leader. He was an honest person. He had tremendous integrity.”
When Stewart retired in 1986, Spahr took over as city manager.
Joe Harner, too, worked for the city during the aftermath of the 1974 tornado, what he called “the most memorable times.”
“It was a terrible time to be there — the people that were killed and the damage that was done to the city,” he said.
Harner was assistant public service director when he worked with Stewart.
“He was good to work with, easy to work for then,” Harner said. “He’d say, ‘You do whatever you’ve gotta do’. We had that relationship with him.”
More than once, Harner recalled Stewart’s supportive nature.
“You knew whatever you did — Bob was going to support you. In those times you needed someone like that,” Harner said. “I not only worked with him, he was also a friend.”
A long-time friend of the Stewart family, Karla Taylor, too, recalled that Stewart impacted not just his community, but his family and friends, as well.
“I have always felt like I was part of the Stewart family,” she said. “He was always there to give advice and he will be greatly missed.”
Outside of his time in office, Stewart loved motorcycles, woodworking, fishing and hunting. He also enjoyed cooking, traveling, and especially the beach. But most of all he loved his wife of 63 years, Yvonne.
Stewart is survived by his wife Yvonne, his seven children, 17 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, July 24 at McColaugh Funeral Home, 826 N. Detroit St. The family will receive friends 3-5 p.m. Sunday, July 23 at the funeral home. Interment will follow the service at the Woodland Cemetery.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.
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