William “Bill” Robert Stewart, Jr., 67, celebrated ornithologist, lifelong surfer, nature outfitter, gifted coach and educator, father and grandfather extraordinaire, died on November 12, 2019 in Wilmington, Delaware. He was surrounded by those closest to him as the first snow of the season fell. Bill was the son of William R. Stewart, Sr. and Beatrice (Bea) Stewart, the stepson of Carol Stewart, and brother to Barbara Blankenship and Beverly Stewart. His children include Alison Cleveland, Maura O’Mahony, Kelly Stewart, Cody Stewart, and Sean Stewart. He was Gramps to Trevor and Brady Cleveland and Hadleigh Baird. His life partner was Kim Steininger.
Bill excelled in athletics at an early age and competed as an intercollegiate gymnast at West Chester State College. Following graduation in 1974, Bill embarked on a career of teaching, first as a physical education teacher and later as a professional gymnastics coach for the DelStars Gym. His athletes successfully competed in national and international meets and performed numerous exhibitions across the nation.
In 1986, Bill pursued a business opportunity at Hunt Country Furniture rising to the position of Executive Vice President. Under his leadership, the company expanded, and he oversaw the opening of new stores across the Northeast. His expertise in the furniture business extended from room design to advertising.
After a successful business career, Bill focused his professional efforts toward his lifelong love of birds, merging his avocation, birding, with a new position in the American Birding Association. As the Vice President of the ABA, Bill developed youth programming drawing on his passions to teach and mentor. He also created initiatives dedicated to conservation. At the same time, he was active in the Delaware birding community serving as the President of the Delaware Ornithological Society. Bill led efforts to preserve and conserve natural resources. Those efforts resulted in the purchase of over 2000 acres of conservation land, creation of nature trails and observation sites, and building a funding model for conservation that is now employed nationwide.
Bill started an outdoor guide company, Red Knot Outfitters, and led groups on bird-watching tours at various sites along the Atlantic flyway. Bill guided international tours that included the rain forests of Costa Rica and the first international birding tour of Cuba. His public presentations were legendary.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Ashland Nature Center, 3511 Barley Mill Rd., Hockessin, Delaware 19707, on Friday, November 15th, 1-3 pm. Birding or casual, outdoor attire is encouraged.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to a charity dedicated to conservation (the Surfrider Foundation, the American Bird Conservancy, or Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research) or the practice of a random act of kindness: take a friend birding or to lunch.