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'A true treasure to Norwalk': Mayor proclaims Mary Laning Stewart Day

Cary Ashby • Updated Dec 22, 2017 at 11:47 PM

Mary Stewart was all smiles as she walked into the Carriage House dining room Thursday afternoon. She wore a “birthday girl” sash and a tiara.

Stewart turned 100 and Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan proclaimed it Mary Laning Stewart Day. 

“We are honored to honor you,” Duncan told her before reading the proclamation, which called Stewart “a true treasure to Norwalk.” 

“Life begins at 100.”

Over the dining room entrance was a “happy birthday” word-banner in multiple colors and nearby was a birthday cake.

“This is just the beginning,” John Schumm, a trustee with the Firelands Historical Society, told the birthday girl.

Stewart first called Norwalk home when she was 11 years old. The 1934 Norwalk High School graduate married John Stewart III in 1951 and the couple had four children: Martha, John, Laura and Mary.

In 1957, Mary Stewart returned to Norwalk and has lived there ever since. She served on the city architectural review board for 40 years.

Stewart ran Law Abstract Publishing after her father died. The family business had been in Cleveland, where Stewart was born, and moved to Norwalk.

The city proclamation calls Stewart an “essential member” of the Firelands Historical Society, a “devoted member” of St. Paul Episcopal Church and a “faithful member” of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Stewart was the first woman to cover the Cleveland Indians in 1948. The Indians recognized that bit of history in a letter written by Bob DiBiasio, senior vice president of public affairs, who sent her “warm wishes and the heartiest congratulations” on turning 100.

“When I came to work that day, the managing editor said, ‘You’re going to the Indians tonight,’” Stewart told the Reflector during an earlier birthday celebration. “I don’t think it had any historical importance. They did it to sell papers.”

When her daughter-in-law, also named Mary Stewart, presented her with the unopened box from the Indians, the elder Stewart said “how nice.” Inside was DiBiasio’s letter, a Bob Feller jersey and an official MLB baseball autographed by pitcher Corey Kluber, her favorite current member of the team.

“I’ll look good in that,” the birthday girl said, referring to the jersey. “If it’s big enough for Bob Feller, it will be plenty big for me.”

Feller played 18 seasons for the Indians.

“You may have been a good luck charm for Mr. Feller and the 1948 World Series champions Cleveland Indians. We could use some of that good luck this coming season,” Dibiasio wrote to Stewart. “We salute you for being the first woman to cover our beloved Indians.”

DiBiasio and Stewart both are graduates of Ohio Wesleyan University, where Stewart earned her journalism degree in 1939. They also worked for the school newspaper, The Transcript, at different times — DiBiasio (class of 1977) as the sports editor and Stewart the managing editor.  

As appreciative as Stewart was about the gifts from the Indians, she echoed her earlier thoughts. She laughed Thursday when she said her 1948 coverage “was a publicity stunt.” She wore her new Feller jersey for most of her birthday celebration.

Carriage House neighbor Kay Moore stopped by Stewart’s table to wish her a happy birthday. She gave Stewart a peck on the cheek.

“She lives around the corner from me,” said Moore, who believes her friend is known for her age, beauty and knowledge.

Duncan, who has known Stewart for about 25 years, agreed.

“The amount of knowledge she has is unbelievable,” the mayor said. “She’s just always delightful.”

Stewart’s daughter-in-law paused to collect her thoughts before saying she is honored to have Mary Stewart as her mother-in-law.

“She has the most forward-thinking attitude I’ve (seen) in my entire life,” the Indiana resident added.

Stewart was asked what she thought about Thursday’s birthday celebration — one of many she has had in recent days — and the mayor proclaiming her 100th birthday Mary Laning Stewart Day.

“I think it’s wonderful. That’s why I stayed in Norwalk,” she said.

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