I lost a dear friend this week when my longtime neighbor, Theresa Stewart, 88 years young, passed on while at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
We had had a great visit just two days earlier, our usual post-church weekly or twice-weekly visit at her assisted-living facility in Santa Monica, where she has been the past couple of years, since leaving her home. She was taken to the hospital Monday after an apparent stroke.
Theresa or "Mother Theresa" as we called her, or "Toots" as others called her, was a truly remarkable person with a force-of-nature will, who touched so many lives. She helped keep the neighborhood together and was the unofficial mayor of the Palisades.
If something was slightly off on our block, she would be the first to make sure it was corrected or the right person was notified. She loved to bring people together, had a hardy smile and laugh and made every day brighter and better.
For me she was a combination mother, best friend and confidant - always there when I needed her, sometimes when I least expected it. Oh, and she was still mowing her own lawn into her early 80s!
Louie Zamperini, Mr. Unbroken, always says his generation isn't really "The Greatest Generation" but the hardiest generation. That was Theresa Stewart, friend to young and old alike, from students at Pali High to the local bus drivers who took her wherever she needed to go, to the guys at the fire station, who treated her like royalty and also took her often for rides, blasting their horn whenever they passed by her house.
She drove her car for many years, then walked into the village when she couldn't drive any more, usually preferring to get anyplace on her own.
Theresa's daughter, Pali High and UCLA grad Debbie Hause, who lives in Omaha with husband Jeff--a professor at Creighton University--and their two boys, has stayed closely connected, visiting whenever possible. She is planning a memorial service for sometime in mid-October. It will be a true celebration of a life well lived.
Editor’s note: Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity.