Clovis businessman and community leader Ernest O. “Doc” Stewart’s support of the Air Force and Cannon airmen for more than 50 years earned him a national award. (Mach Meter: Janet Birkley)
By Janet Taylor-Birkey: Mach Meter staff
Local civic leader and military supporter Ernest O. “Doc” Stewart is officially retired. But at 81 years old, he debunks the myth that retirement means you quit working.
“After you retire, you go to work. (You) do the things you felt like you should’ve done when you were working,” he said.
A tireless supporter of Cannon Air Force Base for 50 years, Stewart is a recent recipient of the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award. The award is the highest civilian award granted by the Air Force and recognizes patriotic and humanitarian contributions in support of the military and their families.
Stewart said he had plenty of help along the way.
“All of these things I’ve accomplished would not have been accomplished without a strong support group and our Committee of Fifty,” Stewart said. “Without the help of men of this caliber, it wouldn’t have taken place.”
Since joining the Committee of Fifty shortly after arriving in Clovis in 1955, Stewart worked with senators and congressman to get Cannon funding and equipment, according to longtime secretary Majorie Tyson.
“He loved the military and wanted to keep Cannon active,” Tyson said. “It wasn’t a hobby but a true love. The time and money out of his own pocket that he spent were a labor of love.”
Stewart believes Cannon being placed on “enclave” status during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process is only a temporary setback.
“I’m disappointed about BRAC,” said Stewart, who owned a Chevrolet and Buick dealership in Clovis for many years. “I do believe there will be a mission assigned one day and I can’t hardly wait. It will be so good for Clovis.”
Not only is his work on behalf of the Air Force rewarding, Stewart also sees his efforts as a way to say thank you for saving his oldest son’s life while on a tour of duty during the Vietnam War.
At one point, the troops under Lt. John Stewart’s were surrounded by Viet Cong. The Air Force came in with jets and delivered the troops from a sure death, said Bobby Jack Stewart, Doc’s third son.
Stewart is not new to military recognition. A park outside Cannon Air Force Base bears his name.
CNJ staff writer Andy Jackson contributed to this report.