Homebound Minister, Rev. Patrick Cardwell, celebrates First Baptist member Paul Stewart, on his 100th birthday! Read below for a reflection and a video meditation inspired by Paul.
It isn’t every day that we get to celebrate a centenarian, but that day is today for one of our own church members – Paul Stewart. Paul Stewart turns 100 years old today. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Paul in our visits and phone calls, but recently I took a little more time to talk with him about what he thinks about reaching the century mark.
The first thing Paul mentioned when I asked about the most important parts of his life was Jennie, his late wife. “There are more things to say about Jennie than there are about me,” Paul said. Naturally, it didn’t take much effort to get him to tell me the story of how their love story began. Paul met Jennie when she was 16. Paul, four years older, was working in a grocery store near Jennie’s house. One day when Jennie was shopping at the store, the two met and they just sparked. Not long after that first meeting, Paul would go see Jennie at her house after work and they started dating. Paul remembers fondly that he had an old model-T, which cost him every bit of $70, “and I’d pick her up in it and go riding around town.” The two traveled many roads together, and eventually walked the aisle at First Baptist Greensboro, with Dr. J. Clyde Turner greeting them at the altar to be married. Paul was also quick to point out that he comes from an English-Scottish background, growing up in a Methodist church that formed his faith. But after he married Jennie, he became a member at First Baptist. Asked what stands out to him about the church or the most closely held memories is the friendliness of the community.
In addition to his membership at First Baptist, Paul worked for Southern Optical Company in Greensboro as a salesman for 48 years. He says he loved the work and stayed so long because of the doctors he got to know – 300 or so by his count. He especially liked to tell them stories on his sales calls and became friends with many of them. As a salesman, he enjoyed traveling and got to see many parts of the southeast, including all of North Carolina and most of Virginia and South Carolina. As for hobbies, Paul loves to fish – even in ponds at River Landing when he first got there – and to draw. Anyone who stops by his room can see what a talented artist he is, and how much he likes to draw Disney cartoons!
He said he could talk for hours sharing stories, but he had a rootbeer float on the way. So toward the end of our call, I asked Paul if he had any advice for me – someone 72 years younger. He had two important pieces of advice to pass along: (1) Live a clean lifestyle. You’ll be glad you did in the decades ahead. And (2) 100 years “isn’t one big thing, just a lot of little things. I think that’s how so much of life happens.” Savor the small moments and the simple things; simple things like an afternoon fishing, a car ride with your sweetheart, commitment to colleagues who become friends, with love at the center of it all. That sounds like sound advice from a man who has lived it. Thanks for the good words, Paul, and happy birthday to you!