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Marg Stewart remembered as strong community advocate

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

Marg Stewart was a rock for everyone around her.

“Everyone knows my mom was strong,” MacKinleigh Stewart said of her mother, a well-known community advocate and business owner. “She had a lot of people who leaned on her.”

Stewart dedicated her life to helping others in need, raising money for local charity, and helping others find strength and recovery through fitness.

But her own silent struggle became too much to bear.

Marg Stewart

Stewart died by suicide last month, leaving her community, family and friends in shock. She was 57.

“I just feel like there needs to be a conversation about strong people. They are often the ones that suffer in silence,” MacKinleigh Stewart said. “The strong ones often feel unworthy and afraid of asking for, or accepting help from others.

“Because this role of being ‘strong’ and being ‘the one who holds down the fort’ becomes an identity.”

For the past several years Marg Stewart ran GroupWorks — a small-group personal training program focused on strength, body positivity and overall health.

“There were a lot of things that are typically part of the fitness industry that she would not allow in her practice,” MacKinleigh Stewart said of her mom, who struggled with a life-threatening eater disorder growing up. “She recovered through finding her strength and being physically strong.

“She would not allow things like ‘diet talk’ or talk of ‘losing weight’ in her practice. She didn’t have mirrors in her workout space; and she really did a lot to switch peoples’ focus from caring about what they looked like, to caring about their bodies’ function and mobility, and being fit, not just physically — but spiritually and mentally.”

One of Marg’s favourite class participants was Noelle Paquette.

“She was right up front with Marg; they had a great relationship,” Noelle’s mother Lynn Paquette recalled.

Noelle Paquette’s tragic 2013 death shocked the community, and prompted Marg to start a fundraiser in her honour that spring.

‘Noelle’s Gift of Fitness’ grew to include area gyms and studios, inviting participants to try new activities while raising money for Noelle’s Gift, which supports children across Sarnia-Lambton.

“She took it upon herself to generate donations and hundreds of volunteers — she was just one amazing lady,” said Paquette, noting $250,000 was raised through the fundraiser since that first year.

Pandemic restrictions forced the event to move online last year, but it didn’t stop Marg from raising another $25,000 on her own, collecting pledges and hosting her virtual classes from home.

This month, Ironworks Health and Wellness Centre has launched a fundraiser in Marg’s honour — encouraging donations to Access Open Minds — a youth mental health facility set to open this summer.

Donations will be accepted at the front desk, or by e-transfer to [email protected]

You can also donate directly to Access Open Minds through the Bluewater Health Foundation (, select ACCESS from the dropdown box and specify that it is a donation in Marg’s memory. Donors will receive an automatic tax receipt emailed to them.

MacKinleigh Stewart, who struggled with her own mental health growing up, said her mom would have been proud to support the cause.

“One of the biggest things for me growing up was that there was nothing local for kids, so that’s something that she would absolutely support,” she said. “We have been blown away by the amount of people who have just come together to do all this.”

Every year, Marg called the Paquette’s on New Year’s Eve — the anniversary of Noelle’s death — just to check in and send her love, Lynn Paquette said.

“It was always about us — never about her. Our family loved her. We’re all going to miss her; the community is going to miss her. Just her energy — she was a hardball.

“If you took her class and you were slacking, you were in trouble,” she said with a laugh. “Watch out, Noelle, because Marg’s going to be after you in heaven.”

* To contact the Eating Disorders Outreach Program at Bluewater Health, call 519-464-4400, Ext. 5217.

* Child & Youth Crisis Line: 1-833-622-1320.

* Lambton’s Mental Health Crisis Service: 519-336-3445 or 800-307-4319.

* Sarnia-Lambton Distress Line: 519-336-3000 or 1-888-DISTRES (347-8737).

* Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 686868


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