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Published: Tuesday, 6/10/2008

Retired dentist was WW II vet, loved outdoors

William Stewart, a retired Toledo dentist who served in World War II and passed along his passion for the outdoors to many friends and relatives, died of a heart attack Saturday while fishing at Slages Trout Club in Cadillac, Mich. He was 88.

Dr. Stewart practiced dentistry in downtown Toledo from 1950 until 1991, once serving as president of the Toledo Dental Society. He was also an experienced hunter, fisher, and bird-watcher.

Dr. Stewart's nephew, Daniel Stewart Mikesell, described him as a dry-witted person and a dedicated naturalist.

"He was a true outdoorsman," Mr. Mikesell said. "That was where he was the most comfortable. Not in a suit, but in a pair of jeans, working out in the yard."

His daughter, Diane Hires, described him as a "wonderful" father who taught her about wildflowers, birds, and trees during family vacations, which always focused on appreciating nature.

Throughout his adult life, Dr. Stewart traveled around North America to hunt, fish, and watch birds. Mr. Mikesell said his favorite of all the places was the Beaver Lake Club, a deer hunting club in northern Michigan of which he was a member for more than 40 years. He also loved fly fishing, Mr. Mikesell said.

Ms. Hires said it was fitting that her father's heart attack occurred while he was on a fishing boat, with a fish jerking on his fishing line.

"I am sure the last thing he knew was the joy of catching a trout," Ms. Hires said.

Dr. Stewart graduated in 1938 from Toledo's DeVilbiss High School, where he had been an honor student, student council president, and a track and football star.

He went on to the University of Toledo, then called Toledo University. He met his future wife, Virginia Mae Walton, in high school, and dated her through college.

After graduating from UT, Mrs. Stewart took a two-day train ride from Toledo to San Diego, where Dr. Stewart was at Camp Elliot's Jungle Warfare School.

The two were married on May 8, 1943, just two weeks before Dr. Stewart was deployed to the South Pacific as a U.S. Marine.

Dr. Stewart was a platoon leader in the elite Marine Raiders unit during WW II, serving more than two years in the South Pacific. He fought in the battles of Bougainville, Guam, and Okinawa, receiving a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star during his tour of duty.

Although Dr. Stewart was modest and quiet about his time in the Marines, he was proud to have served his country.

"You knew when you were leaving that nothing else in your life would be as difficult as what you just went through, and it wasn't," Dr. Stewart told the Blade in 2005 about his experience fighting on Okinawa.

After the end of the war, Dr. Stewart went to Ohio State University to study dentistry, graduating in 1950 and starting his practice the same year. His former son-in-law, J. Eric Hires, eventually joined him and continues to practice in Toledo.

Dr. Stewart and his wife were married 63 years and had two children. Mrs. Stewart died in 2006. One of their children, Thomas Stewart, died of complications from AIDS at age 37 in 1989.

Surviving are his daughter, Ms. Hires; two grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Walker Funeral Home, 5155 West Sylvania Ave., where a military funeral service will take place at 6:30 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to the charity of one's choice.



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