In honoring him, it was said that he “has served his clients, citizens of the Gilmer area, with courtesy, professional excellence and genuine graciousness for almost four decades.”
Long-time Harmony High School teacher Melinda Green was named Educator of the Year.
The Top Hand Award, which always goes to a committee, went to the Upshur County Community Fund Board of Directors.
Minister Dr. David Jenkins received the Humanitarian of the Year honors.
Paula Hill was named the Unsung Hero.
Stewart was lauded for his community service. He is a board member and former president of the East Texas Yamboree Association.
He has also served on the chamber board, Yulefest Parade chairman, Gilmer National Bank board, Housing Authority board, Parks activity board, and is a past director of the East Texas Camp Fire Council.
Stewart was a Gilmer city councilman 1988 to 1993, and mayor pro-tem in 1992 and 1993.
Currently, he is president of the Historic Upshur Museum.
“He has devoted his life to serving God, his family, and his beloved Gilmer,” the announcement said. “Amazingly, he has never sought fame or profit. He has gone about doing his deeds quietly and for the betterment of our community.”
Also cited was Stewart’s devotion to family, supporting and helping his wife in her teaching career and his daughters as they cheered and performed at Buckeye games.
Mrs. Green is not only an outstanding English teacher, she has also taught French, Theatre Art, and directed the school’s One Act Play.
The press release about her said that “she is held in reverence by her peers, yet she walks the halls unaware of the impact she has on those around her.”
Graduating from Texas A&M-Commerce, she took her first teaching job at New Diana High School in the 1970s.
After they started a family, she and her husband, who was a coach and math teacher, relocated to Big Sandy to go into the dairy business.
After 10 years, her marriage ended, leaving her with six children to support. She returned to teaching at Harmony.
The release cited her “wild escapades,” such as performing disco at pep rallies while dressed in the mascot suit, tap dancing on her desk, and dancing more than the cheerleaders at the junior-senior prom.
“Through her trials, struggles, and accomplishments, she has taught by example and action that life is not always fair, but you can always make the best of a bad situation,” the release said.
At the end of the current school year, she will have completed her 33rd year as a teacher at Harmony High School.
The Upshur County Community Fund became independent of the United Way several years ago, and uses all funds collected locally.
Organizations assisted have included Meals on Wheels, Upshur County Shares Food Pantry, Summer Youth Program, Women’s Center of East Texas, Real Jobs for Youth, American Red Cross, East Texas Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Upshur County Literacy Program, Friends of the Upshur County Library, Upshur County Aid Bank, Parents Anonymous and Upshur County Benevolent Fund.
In addition, funds have been used to assist citizens needing wheelchair ramps, school supplies, food, clothing, and victims of house fires.
This past summer, air conditioners and fans were provided for several families with small children, the elderly and families with health problems in the home.
Dr. Jenkins is a 1955 graduate of East Texas Baptist University and in 1974, the college conferred upon him the Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree. He later served on the university board.
He came to Upshur County in 1977 to pastor Gilmer’s First Baptist Church, where he served for 20 years. He later pastored New Hope Baptist near Big Sandy.
Dr. Jenkins served on the board of Baylor Medical Center-Gilmer (now the site of ETMC Gilmer).
Sarah Greene, publisher emerita of The Gilmer Mirror, said “I served with him on the hospital board in the 80s. He was thoughtful and considerate of everyone, regardless of church affiliation or denomination.”
He carried a pager during many of those years so he could help with emergencies, often in the middle of the night.
Gilmer businessman Bill Patterson said that “soon after he came to Gilmer to pastor the church, my parents were killed tragically in an automobile accident, while driving from Gilmer back to their home in Waco.
“Bro. Jenkins flew down to Waco to be with our family at the funeral. His support at that time in our lives was huge.”
Others also praised Dr. Jenkins for the effect he had on theirs’ and others’ lives, including retired funeral director Steve Sansom and Kenneth Stewart, retired president of Gilmer National Bank.
He has authored two books published by Broadman Press, and at the age of 80, still writes for Life Way Christian Resources, preparing Sunday School curricula for adults.
Mrs. Hill “devoted her career to the children of Hallsville, Union Grove and Gilmer. She functioned in the role of teacher, curriculum director, assistant principal and principal until her retirement from GISD in 2004,” her biography said.
“Through her diligent efforts in education, many children today are known as doctors, engineers, scientists, nurses and, of course, teachers.”
Upon retirement, she became director of the Child Development Center at First Baptist of Gilmer.
Despite health issues, she continued to help where she could. From 2008 to 2011, she was volunteer coordinator for Kinsman Hospice. She arranged garage sales, food, blankets, medical equipment and many hours of service to the terminally ill in this community.
A kind and compassionate woman, she is currently director of Patient and Employee advocacy at Kinsman Home Health.
The release stated that “our 2011 Unsung Hero is unbelievable, phenomenal, a friend, a prayer partner, someone you can bear your soul to knowing no one else will ever know, an example for others, and a Godly woman.”
In her remarks, keynote speaker Joan Hallmark of KLTV-Tyler told of how much she enjoyed doing her TV segments on military heroes, adding that “you don’t have to be in a war to be a hero. Those who volunteer to get things done are heroes, too. Look around at the person setting next to you and I bet you are sitting next to a hero.”
About 300 attended the banquet.