A Tribute to Stewart
Stewart Thomas Scofield
March 26, 1948 – April 19, 2008
Stewart Scofield was Food For Thought’s volunteer coordinator, and the most enduring member of the FFT family. He joined the organization in 1991, first as a volunteer, then as the first employee, and continued in those duties until his unexpected death at his Bodega Bay home on Saturday, April 19, 2008. A celebration of his life was held Sunday, May 25, 2008 in Cotati. If you’d like to see the program for the service, and print it out, you can do so (as a .pdf document) here.
His friends and family asked that memorial donations be directed to Food For Thought, The Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank.
Stewart was born in Gary, Indiana on March 26, 1948 and raised in Hobart, Indiana. He received a BA in Psychology from Grinnell College, Iowa in 1970. After graduation Stewart remained in Iowa, working for his alma mater, Grinnell. During this period he was instrumental in organizing Grinnell’s Gay/Lesbian/Queer community and became a co-founder of RFD magazine, a pioneering publication for the rural gay community which continues to be published today.
In the mid-70s Stewart moved to California. He first tried the southland and Santa Barbara before finding his true home in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. He received his Masters degree in Library Science from UC Berkeley in 1979.
He lived in San Francisco for much of the 80s and his deep affection for The City never diminished, even after he moved north. From 1980 to 1992 he and his first partner, Don Maharg, owned and operated City Terrace Landscapes and Gardens, a landscaping business specializing in delightful small backyards in San Francisco. During 1983-84 Stewart also managed the Grubstake II, as he put it “a small but crazy 24-hour gay restaurant”.
After he, Donnie, and their dogs, Madeleine and Nugget, relocated to Bodega Bay, and after Donnie died, Stewart began working with Food For Thought, The Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank (FFT), first as a volunteer in 1990, and then on the payroll of the fledgling service organization, beginning in 1991. Stewart was initially hired to be a part-time food drive coordinator, a position which, over a few years, morphed into full-time volunteer coordinator; the position he held until his death. FFT served 550 clients back then and Stewart was responsible for recruiting, training, scheduling and acknowledging over 500 volunteers for all aspects of FFT’s activities, including staffing at the Forestville facility, food deliveries to clients, bi-weekly supermarket food drives and four major fund-raising events each year. Stewart was also the editor and primary producer of FFT’s semi-monthly newsletter, The Dish.
Stewart was a dynamic and highly effective volunteer coordinator who was not only able to convince individual people to give of their time and energy, but to inspire those volunteers to recruit their friends and family as well. In 1995 Stewart was named Outstanding Volunteer Coordinator in Sonoma County. In addition, he shepherded a record number of FFT volunteers to Silver Bowl awards for Volunteer of the Year, all of these awarded by the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County.
From 1991 until 2006 Stewart organized the carrying of a giant Rainbow Flag in the San Francisco and Sonoma County Pride Parades. The huge flag was a defining symbol of the parades as well as being a dependable fundraiser for FFT.
In the early 90’s Stewart was instrumental in organizing the annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial Marches, a project particularly dear to his heart. It was at the 1994 Candlelight March that Stewart, a long-time survivor of HIV, was presented with the Jeremy Bell Award for Community Service by a Person with HIV. Stewart then became involved with the nomination and selection of subsequent Jeremy Bell Award recipients.
Besides his job at FFT, Stewart volunteered time and energy to many other service organizations, among them, the HIV Speakers Bureau, Face to Face/ Sonoma County AIDS Network, PAWS and the Healing AIDS Newsletter. One of the projects he was most proud of was his role as host committee member/volunteer coordinator for the Santa Rosa display of The NAMES Quilt Project in 1994.
In July, 2003 the Russian River Chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence honored Stewart’s dedication to community service by officially anointing him “Saint Stewart”.
Throughout 2003-04 Stewart worked on the Sonoma County AIDS Leadership Academy helping to organize a year-long training which graduated a class of future community activists in September, 2004. While working on that project, Stewart and Everett Charters (with cameraman Paul Schwartz) produced the film Where Would We Be Without You: A Video History of AIDS Activism in Sonoma County, which includes a video interview with Stewart. As a follow up to this endeavor, Stewart continued to videotape interviews with scores of early activists and participants as an ongoing oral history project.
In 1991 Stewart became involved with The Billy Club, a Ukiah-based nonprofit organization created initially as a way to distribute HIV prevention and service information to a scattered rural gay population. It has since evolved into a major support group for Northern California gay and bi-sexual men. He joined the board of directors soon after The Billy Foundation was created and eventually became its second president.
During his record five years in office, Stewart became, for many, the face of The Billy Club and the embodiment of its principals. Many remember his provocative talent show performances at gatherings (especially his “acid-washed” jeans) as well as his annual telling of the story of the group’s founding, for which he developed the persona of the beloved “Uncle Stewart.”
Stewart was a powerful, persuasive writer whose longtime column, “Off The Wall,” for Sonoma County’s late LGBT newspaper, We The People, was a highlight of each issue. With his trademark wit and surefire ability to cut through to the core of an issue, his columns were often controversial and seldom ignored. Stewart also composed utterly uninhibited poetry and prose, of which he was a spirited performer. During his last years he was engaged in extensive research and writing for his magnum opus, Urinalia: a Social Look at Men and Pissing. Stewart’s research for this book took him across the country and to Europe. In a recent interview with the online magazine Urban Molecule, Stewart described his project as “a book that looks at men and urination from the points of view of history, rites and rituals, psychology, mythology, social customs and biology.” More information on this project, and a survey, can be found on his web site. The editor of Urban Molecule wrote another lovely tribute to Stewart which you can read here.
In his final few years Stewart had been an active and enthusiastic volunteer in the Sonoma County CASA program, helping to mentor troubled young people and shepherd them through the legal system. To everything Stewart did he brought passion, skill and dedication, but just as important he brought a sublime wit and mischievous sense of fun, all guided by his profound integrity.
Stewart was predeceased by his mother, Janice Briska Scofield, his father, Milton Robert Scofield, his sister, Nancy and his first partner, Donnie Maharg.
He is survived by his brother Peter Scofield of Vero Beach, Florida, his nieces, Erica Royce McDaniel of Loveland, Colorado and Mariza Royce Anderson of Spokane, Washington, his cousin, Sue West of Oakland CA, his second partner, Patrick Ennis and many, many friends.