In this job, you cross paths with so many people — and everyone you meet leaves some kind of impact — some more positive than others.
Many want to have their photo taken, advertise their business or cause, or just see their name in print — which is all fine and good.
Then there are those who don’t want the attention at all. In fact, they hide from it.
They, ironically, are the ones who often have the best stories to tell — like Donna Stewart.
Many in the community won’t know her name, but those who do can’t say enough about the Sarnia mother, grandmother, volunteer and community activist who passed away earlier this month after a hard-fought battle with cancer.
“She was one of those unknown, unheard heroes in our community,” said friend Connie Ellis, who worked alongside Stewart at both St. Luke’s United Church — where she was administrative assistant for more than 20 years — and through the Sarnia Organ Donor Awareness Association, of which she was a longstanding board member.
“A very, very special lady. She embraced life and fought hard.”
Born and raised in Sarnia, Donna had a deep love for the city’s south end so it’s no surprise she married and had two daughters with Frank, owner of ‘The Eye Guy’ in the Mitton Village. She spent years as a volunteer and executive member with the Sarnia Starfires Girls Hockey program and helped found SODA’s successful Jazz & Blues in the Village event.
Donna was the heart and soul of the event, which began in the Mitton Village and moved to the Lochiel Kiwanis Centre. It involves her family and friends in every aspect, and has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to assist transplant patients and families in Sarnia-Lambton.
Whenever I interviewed Donna for the event, she directed the recognition elsewhere, downplaying her role and praising the work of her fellow volunteers.
But she couldn’t hide the light in her eyes when she spoke about her little-event-that-could, which is still going strong entering its 13th year. Few people knew she was sick in recent years. Yet she plugged away, year-round hoping to make the next year’s festival a little better than the last.
“She has left a huge hole for us,” said Ellis, noting the committee just had its first meeting without her. “It was hard. But we’ll be sure to keep going forward and carry on what she started.”