Marion Stewart (center) and family celebrated her 100th birthday on Dec. 2nd. The ballroom was filled with nearly 200 family and guests. Photo by Yevette Vargas
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Marion Stewart finds rich life and strong friendships in her 100 Years

Marion Stewart is 100 years old. On December 2, 140 loved ones celebrated her birthday at the Apache Gold casino. Over 60 Stewart family members showed up, many friends from Globe, and cousins from as far as eastern Canada. How does one cultivate so many connections?

“Just going about ordinary life,” Marion says. “Some of them through church, and I volunteered quite a bit.”

She also raised six children and has 14 grandchildren, 20 greats, and seven great-greats. The youngest was born last month. At 100, Marion’s mind is sharp, her eyes are bright, and she laughs often and easily. 

Marion thinks attitude has a lot to do with her good health, and also credits her lineage.

Marion Stewart celebrates her 100th birthday. Photo by Yevette Vargas

A Humble Beginning

Marion Jean Howse was born on December 2, 1923, in Wesleyville, a small fishing outpost in Newfoundland. The home had no running water or electricity.

“People think I was born to nothing there, but it isn’t so,” says Marion. In fact, her mother once met the Queen of England. 

Marion was the only daughter, with five brothers, who let her sled down the hills with them but made her carry it back up. The only childhood aspiration she recalls is “maybe something without all men.”

Marion earned her teaching credentials at Memorial University in St. Johns, Canada, and taught one term, grades 6-9, at a small outpost school.

“There was absolutely nothing there,” she recalls. “There were no people there my own age.”

A Good Guy

Marion and Homer on their wedding day in 1947 (left) and their 50th anniversary in 1997. Photos provided

Marion met her husband, Homer, at the USO club at Fort Pepperrell, in Newfoundland. He was a young man in uniform and the drummer in the U.S. Air Force band.

“He was an excellent dancer and a good guy,” says Marion.

They were married seven months later, on November 4, 1947. Marion immigrated to the U.S. in 1948 under the War Brides Act of 1945, which was about to expire. The young couple traveled into and across the United States by train with their infant daughter, only three weeks old. They didn’t have money to tip the porters, but their newborn baby offered comfort to soldiers and grandparents they met on the train. 

They were married for 63 years, until Homer’s death in 2010.

“We did everything together,” says Marion. “We each had our own things also.”

Homer loved to hunt. He always got his deer with one shot. Marion didn’t want to touch a gun but was happy to be the camp cook. On one Thanksgiving Day hunt, she served up a full turkey dinner, including the pumpkin pie.

Marion’s advice for a long-term marriage is to be happy and to be truthful and honest.

How best to settle an argument? 

“Oh just give in, I guess,” she laughs.

A Large Brood

The Stewart family on one of their many outdoor outings. Photo provided

In 1952, Marion and Homer settled in Globe, to be close to his parents. Homer worked for the mines and then the highway department, and played in a country band. By the time they moved here, Marion had three children – Peggy, Pat, and Jim. Three years later, she had three more – Jeri, Sandra, and John. 

The Stewarts lived on E. Cedar Street until 1966 and then moved to Little Acres. Their house was a meeting place. A place to play basketball. A place to laugh.

“We were taught how to behave and how not to behave in a loving way,” says Peggy, the eldest child, now 75.

It was important to be home for dinner. After dinner everyone would stay around the table and play games. A favorite game, called Gossip, went like this: Someone whispers a line into the next one’s ear, that person passes on what they heard into the next person’s ear, and it goes around the table like that. The last person says the line aloud – which is usually very different from how it started out. 

Actual gossip was not permitted. The children were expected to follow their father’s example and never say a negative word about anyone.

“Never,” says Marion. “That was a law…well, the rule.”

Marion and Homer never missed an activity they were participating in, and the kids were in everything. The boys were in sports. Peggy was a cheerleader. Pat played softball. Jeri was in the band. Marion would pack up the station wagon with kids and food, and one of the parents would always be there, cheering the kids on.

“It wasn’t a hardship,” says Marion, “because we enjoyed it so much.”

The family did a lot of camping and fishing in the White Mountains – Big Lake, Crescent Lake, Rainbow Lake. They still do. In the summer of 2022, the Stewarts had 54 people at camp in the White Mountains. Marion was right in the thrill of it, riding with Jim in his side-by-side.

“It’s the only way, with a large family,” she says.

The biggest challenge of Marion’s life has been the death of her youngest son, John. He was 51.

A Social Life

For many years, Marion worked the election boards, a service she wholeheartedly recommends.

“You had to pay attention and do things right, but it wasn’t hard work, and there was a table with snacks on it,” she says. “It was a chance to see people you hadn’t seen in some time. I liked it.” 

For more than 30 years, Marion volunteered at the Gila County Historical Museum, every Wednesday. Then she went home, fed the family, and went out bowling. Everyone cooperated. Her husband watched the kids.

“Bowling was something that I dearly loved to do,” says Marion. “It was my one thing that was mine.” 

At age 80, Marion competed against 19,000 women to place third at the WIBC Nationals. Scoring a 602 series, she was two pins away from first. Her previous average was 135.

Marion is also known for her skill at playing cards – pinochle and gin rummy. Cards were a form of entertainment for her and Homer, and enhanced their social life.

Marion with her bowling team in 1976. Photo provided

A Dream

“I enjoyed fishing, over my lifetime,” says Marion. “I’ve caught some nice fish.”

For a while, Marion and Homer fished professionally. Even for an adventurous couple like Homer and Marion, the idea of selling their home, buying a commercial vessel, and fishing for a living was outlandish. Peggy recalls expressing her dismay to her mother.

“This is your father’s dream, and we’re doing it,” Marion told her.

It was the mid 1970s. Homer and Marion headed to Juno, Alaska. They acquired a commercial fishing license and a suitable boat, named it the Goofy Newfie (after her homeland), and lived on board, fishing for 10 days at a time. Then they would come ashore for five days to go to a movie, play cards with friends, buy food, and prepare things for going out again. They caught salmon, mostly, and made enough money to live and pay their way home, with a little extra to go in the bank.

“And we had a ball doing it,” says Marion. “Met some great people.” 

A Genuine Connection

Marion has a smartphone but doesn’t use it.

“I don’t care for that — the iPhone,” says Marion. “Truthfully, I don’t know how.”

Since TV went from cable to streaming, her son sets up her shows in the evening. She still enjoys reading and crossword puzzles and can add up a column of numbers in nothing flat, without a calculator.

We think our mother is absolutely amazing,” says Peggy, the lead planner of the 100th birthday bash.

For the party, four of Marion’s grandkids wrote an original song, and all of the grandkids performed it.

Part of the song goes like this:

Tea parties and bowling to camping and cards
We’ve shared laughter and love, through good times and hard
So take a look around at the faces in the crowd
We are the legacy that time cannot erase.

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