Given the gravity of the address, the people gathered at 503 North High Street on Friday afternoon could not lift a glass for a St. Patrick’s Day toast to Pat Stewart.
But here’s what they could do, as they filed into Wesley United Methodist Church for her funeral: They could laugh and tell stories – while hoisting prayers and hymns heavenward on the Irish-themed day that would have also marked her 96th birthday.
Stewart, Morgantown’s iconic real estate agent, died peacefully in her sleep March 11 in her home, just one week shy of that milestone.
Friends and family talked about the adage, “It’s not the years of your life, but the life of your years” – and how it applied to Stewart, who just never would miss work.
For instance, she spent her 95th birthday last year answering phones and conferring with agents at her Pat Stewart Realtors office in Suncrest.
She was still showing up for work until just recently, when nagging mobility issues put her off her feet about six months ago – an orthopedic imprisonment of which she wasn’t shy about voicing her displeasure.
With her husband, the late WVU journalism dean Guy Stewart, she founded her firm in 1973.
That was one full year before the legislation was finally written that granted women the right to apply for a credit card under their own name.
The University City then was taking its first baby steps to becoming the economic and medical hub it is today.
And a certain real estate firm, with a certain female in the main office, was running interference down every block, and past every home with that great back yard.
Stewart and her agents knew those neighborhoods, and the fixer-uppers and potential forever homes, therein.
They knew the city codes and the county codes – not to mention the latest trends in kitchen countertops and cabinetry, for the one room, which, more often than not, sells the whole house.
Fully understanding she was selling homes in a transient college town, with arrivals driving over and flying in from everywhere, Stewart also established a “Newcomers Club,” to ease the passage of Morgantown’s newest residents who often didn’t know a soul when they got here.
All of it, the real estate office and all the civic projects, made for hard work, daughter Diane Lepley said.
Even so, Lepley said, Pat worked harder in her maternal role – than she did as a hard-charging businesswoman who daily kicked conventional wisdom to the curb.
Lepley wanted to ease Pat’s passage Friday, she said.
She did so with an acapella version of Frank Sinatra’s “Always,” her mom and dad’s favorite song.
“I’ll be loving you, always,” a daughter sang to the people hushed in the pews.
“With a love that’s true, always …”
Lepley broke off the song – because her voice was breaking.
“She was a special woman. And we’ll love her, for always. Thanks, Mom.”