Memorial service set for St. Mary’s at 1 p.m. on Dec. 14
By Kevin E. Foley
Gordon Curran Stewart, the founder of Philipstown.info and The Paper, died early Wednesday morning, Nov. 26. He was 75 and had suffered from emphysema. A memorial service has been scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 14, at 1 p.m. at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Cold Spring. (In lieu of flowers, his family says it would appreciate a contribution to support Philipstown.info.)
Through an energetic combination of his public participation and strategic philanthropy, Stewart left a clear and lasting mark on the life of the Philipstown community. A relative newcomer to the area, Stewart had deep appreciation for both its natural beauty and its social dynamic.
He and his wife Zanne Early Stewart and their daughter Katy became full-time residents of Garrison in 2007.
Among his many projects and personal enthusiasms, this 2.5 year-old weekly newspaper and its companion website, which opened on July, 4, 2010, were central to Stewart’s local interests. He began the website in response to a growing sense that Philipstown needed a fresh approach to community journalism and information sharing after the Putnam County News & Recorder, owned by Elizabeth Ailes and Roger Ailes, chair of Fox News Corporation, had begun to veer toward an ideological approach that alienated many local readers.
“One thing we will not impose are political views. No editorials,” he wrote when the website launched. “The only opinion pieces in Philipstown Dot Info will be yours” — the website welcomed readers’ comments on articles, a new approach to Philipstown journalism. “As to our news policy,” Stewart added, “we believe it has never been stated better than this: ‘without fear or favor.’”
Stewart established Philipstown.info as a nonprofit funded originally by himself because he was impatient to see it get started and because he wanted the focus on the journalism and technology issues not on fundraising. He always said, however, that he planned to move the operation toward a community-funded model that could serve as an example for other communities around the country to follow.
Stewart applied to the Internal Revenue Service and after a lengthy review process got the organization designated as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization allowing for tax-deductible contributions. During 2014 Stewart lobbied influential local citizens to join a board of directors to form a new corporation to take responsibility for maintaining the presence of Philipstown.info and The Paper.
The Philipstown Info Inc. board has a statement accompanying this obituary.
Stewart also founded and directed productions with the World’s End Theater Company, helped breathe new life into the Philipstown Depot Theatre and played a leadership role in building financial support and art-world recognition for the Garrison Arts Center. He organized and helped fund a special program to invite leading artists to show work at the center and meet with local artists.
Stewart directed and conducted a production of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera in 2012, turning the Depot Theatre into 18th-century Newgate and giving the audience a perspective on the power of satire. Of all his projects and achievements, the one that Stewart valued most was his production of Handel’s Messiah last December in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. After studying Handel’s score intensely and assembling a group of world-class musicians and singers, Stewart conducted two memorable performances that embodied for Philipstown the beauty of composition, harmony, leadership and community.
John Plummer, Stewart’s co-founder of World’s End Theater, called Gordon “a man of uncommon vision, blistering intelligence and boundless compassion. To borrow from the greatest theater classic of all time, ‘He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.’”
The Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce named him the Business Person of the Year in 2013.
Among his proudest associations was his membership in Cold Spring Volunteer Fire Company No. 1. Stewart answered emergency calls as a trained fire/police member deployed to direct traffic at fire and accident scenes or large public events. He regularly attended meetings of the company and happily marched in parades in uniform.
He was a man whose life included various and enriching paths, interests and pursuits. Before he moved to Philipstown, Stewart’s career path took him on a long and winding road from his Chicago birthplace to, among other places, Vienna, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Along the way he studied in graduate programs focusing on literature, history and music. At various times he was a theater and film director, a screenplay writer, a trained concert conductor, a mayoral aide, a presidential speechwriter, a stock exchange official, the CEO of a major insurance trade association and the chairman of a pension management firm.
Throughout much of his life Stewart was also a knowledgeable and savvy collector of art. He spoke German fluently.
Stewart’s intellectual curiosity and willingness to engage with all social sectors and all manner of community endeavors made him influential in creating or redirecting local organizations and public attitudes in Philipstown.
To every project in which he was involved, Stewart brought an extraordinary depth of knowledge, both academic and experiential, to bear on it. His energy and drive were infectious, at times nearly overwhelming in their boundlessness. Stewart always made time for local engagement and impromptu discussion with local officials and fellow citizens, whether he met them in the Foodtown parking lot, outside Main Street shops or at fundraisers and parties.
Despite his apparent constant local presence Stewart nevertheless maintained an active participation in other professional pursuits involving U.S. national security, corporate, philanthropic, and think-tank interests that demanded travel to Europe, Asia and the nation’s capital.
A single conversation with Gordon Stewart might include a comparison of Beethoven and Handel, changes in NATO political and military strategy in light of the new Russian threat in Ukraine, the need for developing a new American social security safety net, and of course the need for community supported professional journalism — all projects he was actively working on in the last year of his life.
Stewart was comfortable speaking with anyone, regardless of their role in the community, as long as they were prepared to accept the consequences of his reaction to whatever they had to say. The man absorbed the details of everything around him and subjected them to serious consideration. Whether the commonplace or the extraordinary, civic, political, cultural, social or personal, he reveled in the details of life in his local community, the direction of the country and the fate of the world.
No ordinary career path
Stewart grew up on the south side of Chicago where he was born July 22, 1939. His father Henry, an adult emigrant from Scotland, was a Presbyterian minister and social worker while his mother Evangeline was a librarian at the University of Chicago where Gordon attended high school and met some of the day’s leading professors. At 16 he won a scholarship to Oberlin College where he majored in history and music. He pursued a doctorate in European history at the University of Chicago before relocating to the University of Vienna to study music and drama. He then earned a master of fine arts in directing from Yale University.
After a stint teaching literature and drama at Amherst College, Stewart moved to New York City to pursue drama and politics. Writing speeches for notable people led to work as chief speechwriter and executive assistant for New York City Mayor John Lindsay from 1971-73. Later in the decade he was involved in a New York state gubernatorial race and then the successful campaign of Jimmy Carter for president.
During the same decade he had moved to the West Coast where he worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood. He was also asked to direct the first New York City performance of The Elephant Man.
In 1978 he was appointed as deputy chief speechwriter to President Carter. Stewart was especially proud of his Carter association. He often regaled Philipstown.info staff with stories of high drama and low humor in the Oval Office and corridors of the White House.
Following his years on the White House staff, Stewart’s career continued in the intersections of politics, business and art. He was a vice president of the American Stock Exchange from 1982-89.
From 1991 to 2006 he was president of the Insurance Information Institute, an influential property and casualty trade group in New York.
Since 2010 Stewart had been the chairman of the Named Fiduciaries of the Pension Plan for Insurance Organizations, one of the largest multiple employer pension plans in the United States. He also served for many years with The Geneva Association for the Study of Insurance Economics based in Switzerland.
When he died, Stewart was working on this year’s reprise of Messiah, which is still scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 21. The two performances that day will be presented in his honor.
A person of many facets, Stewart was one of a kind. Although now absent from our day-to-day existence, his presence in this publication, in his family and in this community lives on. He is fondly remembered and sincerely missed.
It was a privilege to have made the acquaintance of such an extraordinary man. Our deepest condolences to Zanne and Katy.
Heartfelt sympathies to Zanne, Katy and everyone involved with The Paper – Gordon will be missed by so many people.
I’m enormously blessed to have known Gordon as a friend. I am terribly sad that I’ll not have those wonderful, impromptu conversations with him in our shop that always resulted in a deeper understanding of art and the world. Thank you, Gordon, for all you have done for our community and setting a high standard of humanity for us all to aspire to.
Gordon contributed so much to the fabric of Philipstown during his time here. It was a privilege to know him. My thoughts and prayers are with Zanne and Katy.
Thank you, Kevin. Our love to the family and all of you who have been serving us so well with your work.
You will be missed, Gordon. I will always feel the greatest gratitude to you for creating Philipstown.info/The Paper. You gave our community an indispensable and enduring gift. Thank you for honoring the highest standards of journalism, fairness and truth. Thank you for helping to enable the essence of democracy by giving voice to community members’ concerns in a professionally moderated forum, a forum that is singular in the community. Most of all, I am grateful for your example of genuine humanity, concern for your neighbors and community, and your actions and participation in improving lives – not as a byproduct of seeking influence or profit – but as a result of a fundamental sense of right and wrong. You were an exemplary human being. It was my honor and privilege to know you.
Wow. I’m so sorry to hear this. He was always such a gentleman. A sad Thanksgiving eve this year with the passing of Gordon and young Sam. They were both so pleasant to be around and to know. My family will be praying for both of these men on their new journey.
This is a very sad time for us. He has contributed so much to our village while he was here. He will be missed and our prayers go out to the family.
I can only think of a handful — half a handful — of humans I’ve met with the breadth, wit, intelligence, artistic spark, humor and public-minded spirit of Gordon. Too soon gone.
A grateful community honors Gordon. May perpetual light shine upon him.
Gordon was an exceptional Renaissance man, a true scholar and gentleman. And, he made such a uniquely positive contribution to our community in myriad ways. He was one of a kind and will be deeply missed. My heart goes out to Zanne and Katy.
Just came across this now as I’m preparing for Thanksgiving festivities and couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this. I am absolutely shocked to hear of Gordon Stewart’s untimely death and I can only imagine how you and the other staff members are feeling at this time.
Mr. Stewart has left an indelible mark on the Village of Cold Spring, the Town of Philipstown and the rest of Putnam County with Philipstown.info and even his beloved “Messiah,” which I looked forward to attending again this year.
Gordon Stewart was a champion of free speech, and one thing I will not soon forget — that no matter how much he disagreed with someone politically, even if it was something that he felt very strongly about such as a certain other publication in town or a pressing local or national issue, I don’t believe he ever censored or refused to publish something based on a difference of opinion with the writer. In all honesty, I was often surprised that some of my more “controversial” comments were posted in the paper as they invariably were, pretty much as I had sent them in.
During the short time he was with us, he contributed greatly to this community in many ways. He will be missed.
We have lost a great hero. Fortunately for posterity, his works remain. Such a good man, such a giving man, such a friend, we shall not look upon his like again.
I loved running into Gordon around town and especially at the farmer’s market. He was a great storyteller and more importantly, a great “citizen.” He seemed to truly believe that each individual had an obligation to make a positive contribution to one’s community. He certainly did. I’ll miss him.
Having heard the majestic Messiah he conducted last year, I am sad to hear of this remarkable man’s passing. He contributed so much to our community and will be remembered as a kind and generous soul. Deepest condolences to the Stewart family.
This is astonishing news and so very sad. Mr. Stewart was such a presence and contributor to the spirit of our community. His intelligence and generosity are legion. The “Messiah” he offered was just one example of the passion he demonstrated. While I did not know him well, I miss him already. I send my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
I had no idea of all that Gordon accomplished until reading this. We have all lost so much.
Gordon enriched our lives in so many ways, from the casual conversations on the street, through weekly news about the people we really are, to the operatic highs of Beggars Opera and Messiah. My sincerest condolences to Zanne and Katy!
I’m so grateful for the many contributions Mr. Stewart brought to our community. To call upon one in particular: the “Messiah” he conducted last year was a holiday memory I will treasure forever — and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I was lucky to have a seat with my husband on the dais, where we could see the look of happiness and awe on his face as he lead the incredibly talented musicians he had gathered for the occasion. We were greatly looking forward to taking our children with us this year. I hope and trust that wherever his journey takes him next, it will be to a place of happiness and awe. My condolences to his family and friends.
Gordon will be missed but he lived his life well. He did so much and he gave so much — a great “citizen” in every sense of the word. Philipstown is indebted to Gordon and his family for their lasting contributions. My condolences to Zanne and Katy.
Just sad. Gordon was such a giving man. May his spirit live on in the seeds he sowed in our community. Thinking of you all and condolences to his family.
Very few people immerse themself in their community the way Gordon did. It was inspiring to have such a charismatic and dedicated community member. My heart goes out to Zanne and Katy. Gordon will be greatly missed.
We are heartbroken over losing our cherished Gordon. Our hearts however are full with all he gave to our community. I echo remarks here. A heroic defender of free speech, a raconteur, a renaissance man. Gordon Stewart will not only be remembered but his legacy and love live on in us.
A remarkable man who lived a remarkable life. I feel profoundly grateful for all he did for our community.
For his steadfast belief that nothing was impossible, for his firm belief in the power of the citizenry, for his spirit, his wit and his extraordinary devotion to this community, Gordon will be sorely missed. Our sincerest condolences to Zanne and Katy.
A Renaissance man who shared his talents with our community and the world. His gifts endure in so many ways. Condolences to Zanne and Katy.
A great man and mentor to many of us. He really demonstrated the potential we all have to reach for greater things.
Gordon profoundly elevated the culture of our community. And he lived quite a life outside of Philipstown too. For some background, take a look at his Wikipedia entry:
I am so sorry to hear this sad news. I thought Gordon was a very inspiring person the way he worked with people and got involved in so many neat things which benefitted the whole community. I will be forever grateful that he commissioned me to draw that Cold Spring map, which is a perfect example of how he brought out the best in me, which I think he did with many people he has worked with over the years. His was a remarkable life and I am so grateful I got to know him. My condolences to Zanne and Katy.
I’m sad that the world and Philipstown and me no longer have Gordon Stewart in our lives. But then I realize that we will always have him because of the great legacy he has left us. Thank you, Gordon.
A real shocker! Just sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and read this. Stunned!
At a reception couple weeks ago, we got into a great little discussion about something for which he had little interest – politics. Perpetually interesting, many topics under his belt, he was never at a loss, nor refused to talk to anyone. A great service he provided this community, a broad spectrum of ideas, for which we will be forever indebted.
Too damn soon! Gordon was a man of grit, class, and intelligence, and his leadership and guidance will be missed – by our town, and by me. He stepped up and fought the good fight, and inspired us to follow.
It is difficult to think of living without this wonderful man in our midst. A Renaissance man in the truest sense, a humanist and the wonderful music he provided for us. Gordon, you were a hero and a leader for so many of us. My heart is very sad.
We were shocked to hear of Gordon’s passing. We all were blessed to know this exceptional man of such intelligence and gentle wit. Never forget talks from politics and music and art and so much more. We miss him in our community and extend condolences to his family.
With a sense of deep sadness for the loss of an extraordinary person I never met, I would like to make a modest suggestion for the music that no doubt will be played at his memorial. I attended the performance of The Beggar’s Opera a couple of years ago, in Steward’s masterful rendition of this landmark work. Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga” (Let me weep) would be fitting for the community’s farewell to a man who did so much to enrich cultural life in these villages. There is a beautiful story here. The score calls for the march, “Let us take the Road,” from Handel’s Rinaldo (1711), one of his most popular operas. As was customary during Handel’s time (and Beggar’s Opera, 1728), composers would borrow liberally from each other, especially if tunes had become famous. The march from Rinaldo is in Beggar’s Opera, but, for a chorus of women, Gordon Steward added his own witty touch: to Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga,” also from Handel’s Rinaldo, Steward changed the words to “Lascia ch’io parla” (Let me speak) giving the women a voice. “Lascia ch’io pianga” is a serene and gorgeous lament, a fitting farewell.
Malena, this is a very astute and sensitive observation as regards the Handel. It is indeed too bad that you didn’t meet Gordon. I’m glad though that you came into the circle of life, for a time, that the Beggar’s Opera was central to. I have passed on your suggestion of Lascia — actually, just this instant I thought that perhaps we might include it in the upcoming Messiah. If you come to that, please say hello — I will be the bassist.
As others have noted, Gordon was a modern Renaissance Man and shared his expertise and creative spirit freely and generously. Like so many others, I feel fortunate to have been on the receiving end of that generosity more than once. We are lucky to have had him as our neighbor and friend in Philipstown. I am so sorry Zanne and Katy for your loss.
So sorry to hear this sad news. His boundless energy and commitment to others are an inspiration. A life enriched by a remarkable spirit of generosity and a passion for both ideas and people. Deepest sympathy to his family and everyone at The Paper.
In addition to the personal grief those of us who knew Gordon feel at the loss of a warm and kind-hearted friend, as a community we also mourn the loss of a tireless and courageous man who took up the good causes, worked to keep the arts, and appreciation for the arts, alive; fought the good fight for true freedom and diversity of opinion and expression, championing us Davids against the Goliaths. We mourn and miss him, and wish all comfort and love for Zanne in these days.
So sorry to hear this news. What a generous and multi-talented gentleman was Gordon Stewart. He has truly enriched our lives.
It has been a privilege and honor to know Gordon Stewart — such a remarkably talented, diverse and generous man of seemingly boundless energy. We are deeply saddened at this loss and our sympathies go out to Zanne and Katy.
So sorry to read the news of Gordon’s passing. What a lively conversation he started in Philipstown and a new way to deliver the news. I am grateful for all he has done for our community and my heart goes out to his family and colleagues. He will not be forgotten.
Very sad and surprising news! I’m grateful for his tremendous contributions to Philipstown (and elsewhere).
We shared multiple interests with Gordon and Zanne. Gordon’s energy and enthusiasms for all that he undertook — and he undertook more than most of us can even imagine — were and always will be an inspiration to us both.
This is very sad news. But Gordon Stewart has left us all a wonderful legacy. He stepped forward, led the way, and encouraged us all to understand that we should each do our best to stand up and be active in helping our community strive for true diversity of expression in every area whether it be political or in championing the arts. Let’s keep up his good work!
This is such sad news. Somewhat ironically, I was checking this site, to find out about the upcoming performance of Handel’s Messiah…which I was hoping to see, in December. Too many reminders lately, as to how fragile life is. My condolences to Mr. Stewart’s family and close friends. Rest in peace. I hope The Paper that Mr. Stewart started not too awfully long ago will continue on.
I do not know what to say other than this is too sad for words. The untimely loss of this good-natured, spirited and brilliant man will be almost palpable to this community. I extend heartfelt condolences to Zanne and Katy.
What a talented, fortunate person, who truly embodied generosity with his own special flourish! A beautiful example for us all. My heart flies out to Zanne and Katy, and to the whole community. May we all really take the meaning of his presence, and of his gifts to us, and keep bringing it forward! Love to all!
I’d met Gordon several times in and around the village of Cold Spring. I remember his excitement and enthusiasm about conducting Handel’s Messiah. I hope the legacy of his spirited brilliance, community activism and diversity of expression will continue to live on through The Paper.
Our condolences to the Stewart family. An asset to our community and a true gentleman who will be missed.
Gordon seemed to be the kind of man who took time out to listen to people, finding that there was something to spark his curiosity in most anyone he ever came into contact with. In my case, he was very interested to try and understand just what it was that I did for a living. Somehow our conversation led to my son, who had master classes with Jimmy Carter while a student at Emory. When my son returned from his service with the Peace Corps he took the train up from the city to see me perform in The Beggar’s Opera and Gordon purposely slipped away from his orchestra to chat with Speare for what seemed like forever. I think he would have continued chatting with him, had someone from backstage not pulled him away. I am so glad that Speare had an opportunity to meet Gordon and learn more about his work with President Carter. On another musical occasion, I was singing at St. Philip’s and my eyes moved across the audience and of every warm body seated, one face near the back caught my eye… because he was smiling so brilliantly. It was Gordon. He seemed to be someone who loved life and wanted to share his discoveries with the world so that others could love life as much as he did. I am quite saddened by his departure from this world, but impressed and delighted by the mark he left for all of us.
I am deeply saddened by the news of Gordon Stewart’s passing. Aside from his history of heroic accomplishments in the arenas of politics, business, theater, music, and art, he was a brilliant man and a gift to our small community. I feel honored to have known and worked with him, to have had the pleasure of being a solo audience for a concert on his treasured Bösendorfer piano and to have had a personal walk through his diverse and eclectic art collection which spans centuries. I listened with wonder to the many stories he shared about the art works. I will miss the long pep talks he gave me with way too many ideas flying around. Gordon, you will be sorely missed but your legacy remains with us. My heart goes out to Zanne and Katy and to his circle of close friends and the entire Paper staff.
Gordon was a delight, and Patrick and I felt privileged to know him. Our prayers are with Zanne and Katy.
I’ve lost as close a friend as I’ve had in my life. Gordon was my cousin and we were both born in 1939. I grew up in his Mom’s home town of Oskaloosa, Iowa. I can remember spending time with him from the middle 1940s in Chicago and Oskaloosa, to trips in recent years to Garrison. We weren’t able get together often but we met consistently over our 75 years. He was always caring and interesting. Zanne and Katy were great additions to complete his life experience.
Gordon was my husband’s cousin & we saw him often in the 1960s.
My favorite from his Jimmy Carter-speech-writing days was that Jerry Brown was “Califorinia’s gift for the Year of the Child,” though I think Jerry Brown may have grown up since then!
Gordon was amazingly talented and sharp witted. Fun to be around.
Gordon was my friend!
I am so saddend to hear of Gordon’s passing. Though I have not seen him since his New York insurance days, I have often thought fondly of his love of Native American art and the discussions we had in his offices downtown. Always inspiring, Gordon will be sorely missed by all. My sincere condolences and sympathies to his family.
Gordon was truly an extraordinary person. I hope reading these wonderful tributes from his many friends and admirers brings peace and comfort to Zanne and Katy.
What a rare privilege to know a man so passionate for truth and good and so disparate in his pursuit of them. Equally adept at enlightening me on the driest of foreign policy or the subtleties of dramatic literature, then relating them to the immediate local challenge; a conversation with Gordon was always an eye-opener. May the local institutions he founded grow according to his dreams. May his example inspire us all to make the most of our gifts.
Gordon will be remembered for his accomplishments, friendships and keen intellect. And deservedly so.
I will remember him for these things too, but also for his tireless and passionate work on behalf the retirement system that served many of the insurance industry’s trade association employees. Against long odds and the traditional resistance to change, Gordon fought hard – over a protracted period of time – for what was right and fair. And he won. Wrongs that were previously hidden from view were corrected. Best practices were instituted. And it took dogged determination and the willingness to confront some unpleasant facts. Thank you Gordon for leading this effort.
And lastly I will always cherish the brief time I spent in his home with Zanne and Katy, and his beautiful piano. He played for me once and I cannot get the sounds out of my head or my heart. Suffice it to say, some of my Gordon memories will last a lifetime.
It was a pleasure to know Gordon Stewart. A man of total Integrity, he brought a needed perspective to our community and was always willing to help promote the arts in all areas in this small village and beyond. My heart goes out to Zanne and Katy. We were all blessed by such a Beacon of Light for us all.
This is a great loss to our community and our planet,but the efforts Gordon had put forward will endure. He is at peace. He was such a good person and touched people in so many ways. I feel honored that he asked me to serve on the board of Philipstown Info and help sustain this innovative model of a community-supported newspaper. I know all the board members feel the same way. He also meant so much to the arts and artists in our midst. I was so thrilled when Gordon asked our son John to help him form World’s End Theater. God’s peace to Zanne and Katy during this time of sadness.
Good man, my cousin. I remember the times we, as kids, used spud guns off his back porch in Chicago. My introduction to Chicago city life. And of course, his fondness for Gilbert & Sullivan — he was good with that. He will be missed.
I had heard that Gordon was not well and was so excited when I learned that he would once again be conducting the Messiah — then that excitement was suddenly dashed by such sad news. On behalf of all those at Garrison Art Center, “I thank you, Gordon, for all you so generously contributed to this small community, hungry for one as daring as you.”
I loved talking to Gordon about politics and religion cause he respected me as an individual. I will tell you that he and I clashed on village issues at times and it was entertaining. I will miss him deeply because the kind of diversity he brought to this village will be sadly missed.
I don’t think I ever knew that Gordon and I shared a middle name. He was my wonderful older cousin who got me tickets to Jesse James and the Bandit Queen when he directed at The Public in NYC, who invited me to lunch at the White House Mess, who filled our house with music when he came to visit, who always had good stories to share. He brought us all much joy.
Gordon was and will forever be the heart and soul of the Pension Plan for Insurance Organizations.
In my 45 years as a pension lawyer specializing in ERISA plan governance, I have never met a person such as Gordon who exemplified the highest standards of ERISA fiduciary stewardship. I have never seen such passion for protecting the rights of plan participants (who he called the “lives”). For all the years I worked with Gordon he was forever steadfast and determined in fighting for the lives even in the face of fierce opposition. I will be forever proud of fighting what Gordon called the “Great War” with him and recovering $10 million for the Plan. During that difficult period Gordon was truly our General directing our every move with his keen intellect and political insights. Gordon persevered over many years to make sure that the lives were forever protected by establishing best practice governance rules for the Plan and independence rules for the Named Fiduciaries to ensure that the interests of the lives come first. Under Gordon’s leadership the Plan was truly reborn and he will forever live on in the rules he established to protect his beloved lives. I am grateful to have worked with such an extraordinary man. I treasured his friendship and will miss him deeply.
He is and will continue to be greatly missed. Lots of people talk a good game in life; Gordon played one. May he rest in peace.
Besides his continuing involvement on myriad national and international fronts, look at all Gordon helped nurture in the seven years, as a full-time resident, he graced our Philipstown. Without him, there might not be a World’s End Theater company, a weekly, helpful, award-winning, unbiased Paper; a detailed map of Cold Spring; and a pair of sold-out benefit concerts, on period instruments! – that, as far as this reader can tell, will be long remembered as the cherished Event of last year’s holiday season.
In my last communications with him, he was gearing up to repeat the concerts again this year, ever determined and hopeful. In preparation for these concerts this Christmas, I posted a Messiah slideshow from last season to both YouTube and Vimeo in anticipation of a planned article about this December’s concerts. The last time I saw him in person, he stood before a large gathering to speak about The Paper and his fervent hopes for its future.
There are some circles who don’t believe the arts are necessary to life and would shrug at the nonexistence of a company such as World’s End, with a – so what? But then they probably missed a sublime summer afternoon underneath a gazebo when a few mostly-local actors beautifully embodied Chekhov’s characters with great humor and humanity. The play began and some actors, in lovely period costumes, entered, playing on acoustic instruments and singing a song – all amidst a setting of a gazebo, weeping willows, and the grand Hudson river beyond.
I’m sure there would be some sort of theater company without Gordon – there are other people here who certainly have the verve and talent. But would they have been on as solid ground without Gordon’s standing in the community and his initial encouragement? His involvement helped open doors. As he has done with The Paper, he got the ball rolling. We probably would have also experienced The Way Of The World, but – would the budget have been able to also encompass all the ravishing and amazingly detailed costumes designed by Charlotte Palmer?
I’m sure there are some circles who don’t believe another weekly local paper is necessary to life and would shrug at the nonexistence of The Paper, with a – so what?
But there there have been times of late, when the debate about the future mass and scale of this Village has been fierce and wounding. As I said to Gordon one day, when another paper vilified a local resident’s name in a headline yet again – I said something along the lines of – truly, thank goodness there exists an alternative here. Far as I could tell, The Paper took a determinably neutral stance and printed every letter, whether pro or con to what could be its publisher’s position. And in the very first year it was eligible, garnered not one, but 10 New York Press Association awards!
I have been also extremely grateful The Paper has championed area artists and events. It wasn’t just two lines on a calendar; often some event or person would be profiled or there would be an article on a gallery opening or a documentary film, etc. – and on and on and on – my thought is this greatly impacted attendance and has helped keep our community alive and lively.
I second Main Street business owner and World’s End Theater actor, Greg Miller’s letter: “May the local institutions he founded grow according to his dreams.”
Sometimes I would run into Gordon back at the train station at night, each returning after a long day in the city.` He always had satchels and bags of papers with him – he was involved in many matters beyond Philipstown. And as others have written here, I too was honored to be privy one evening to see his very eclectic art collection, spanning many eras. Not one piece was exactly alike (or maybe even from the same country or century), but it spoke of amazing taste.
Finally, I was lucky enough to be tangentially involved in his mounting Handel’s Messiah at St. Mary in-the-Highlands last Christmas season – not to profit himself, but to benefit them.
But who would think of such a thing? Handel’s Messiah – with a large orchestra on period instruments and a full chorus and soloists in this tiny slip of a village called Cold Spring?!
The day and night of the concerts:
Arriving early, I noticed a man enter, carrying his enormous bass, followed by others with some cellos, a couple flutes, bassoons, two period trumpets – and on and on and on. Another gentleman carefully carted in a period keyboard and period organ from his van, each probably weighing a few hundred pounds. Against the stained glass and gilded beauty of the church, the assembly of people, all wearing black, was stunning, and no one had even started singing or playing yet. Some locals from our small, but talented community in the orchestra, the chorus, and among the soloists. I am probably not exactly on the mark, but there seemed to be over 50 people on the stage, all ready to play their part. And some 300 people at each performance in attendance in the pews.
Afterwards, as the last note was played, there seemed to be a tidal wave of thunderous applause. I think in that moment, Gordon was quite fulfilled and happy; he always seemed to be involved in one way or another in trying to better the experience of the community. What that moment meant to him – after months of poring over the score, making copious notes, and practicing, a score that was deeply personal to him – I think only Zanne would really know. In the weeks after, I heard from more than a dozen people who were in the audience, what a very special evening that had been, and among the musicians who have played The Messiah countless times at many different venues over the years, that the experience of this Messiah was very meaningful for them as well.
What had brought all these people together – again? Hundreds of people in late December for a day and night of celestial music? Once again, in the shifting crowd, one only had to look over and notice the presence of Gordon Stewart.
I am saddened by Zanne’s loss and amazed that I did not know her husband as well as I did Zanne. We worked together for 18 years at Gourmet Magazine. I am now the gardener at Straus Park on 106th Street and West End. I would like to suggest a community tree in an appropriate location in town to commemorate his life and contributions. I did this for my uncle three years ago and it is a pleasure to remember someone each year the tree renews its flowers and leaves as a testament to their contributions living on after they have passed. I would love to come and assist if you so decide upon it. I am sorry I won’t be able to come to the memorial but my thoughts are with everyone’s hearts this day, peace to your community.
While I knew Gordon was an amazingly talented man with many accomplishments and experiences, I am realizing he also seems to have really understood how to make the most out of his time here on Earth. As others have commented, Gordon gave so much to the people in this community and in such a decent, elegant way. Zanne and Katy, my thoughts are with you both.
I’m so sad to here the passing away of my client Gordon Stewart. I was his hair stylist from Daniella Hair Salon in downtown Manhattan. My sympathy to his family! I remember the last day I saw him in September; he came in for his hair cut, he told me he was not feeling good, seeing the tubes in his nose really shocked me. We talked and when he was leaving he gave me a copy of his tape, the Messiah. Such a good person will be missed.