Leatha F. Stewart
February 9, 1931 – February 1, 2020
Leatha Fulkerson Stewart passed away on Feb 1, 2020; she was 88 years old. Her son Andy was with her and she left us in a peaceful state and without pain. She still had her “wits” about her…something that she truly wanted to keep until her last days. Leatha was born on February 9, 1931 in Camden, New Jersey to Eva Jones Fulkerson and Stanley Fulkerson. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was a chemical engineer. Her father recognized that Leatha was bright, precocious and inquisitive and spent time with her and taught her to read by the age of three. Her mother attempted to instill the qualities of justice, empathy and social charm. By the time she was in High School in Oak Ridge Tennessee (where her father worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II) Leatha was part of the Oak Ridge High School Youth Council on the Atomic Crisis (YCAC). Her senior year she was president of this organization, whose members wrote articles for major publications, were interviewed on radio and spoke at major conferences. The focus of YCAC was the possible perils of nuclear energy and the need for World Peace. During high school Leatha also had many jobs babysitting, which piqued her interest in the learning process and child development.
In 1948, while attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Leatha met her husband, James A. Stewart, a young Navy veteran. She completed a degree in Education while helping Jim complete Dental school at the University of Louisville. Editing his writing furthered her own ability to teach. Jim Stewart taught Leatha how to have a good time and take risks. Soon after their marriage in 1950, Leatha and Jim had their two sons, James Andrew, Jr. (Susan) in 1952 and Bruce (Robin) in 1953 and moved to Franklin, Ohio to establish a dental practice.
Leatha was the support structure for Dr. James Stewart’s successful dental practice. Leatha would mentor “Poppy’s” staff, do the payroll, and make the dental office aesthetically pleasing, while Poppy made sure his patients got the best dental work for a fair price. While they were establishing the dental practice Leatha had two daughters Mary (Scott Tompkins) in 1955 and Elizabeth (Andrew Simkin) in 1958. Leatha also reached out into the community to see where her skills could facilitate positive growth within a person or within an organization. Her first endeavors focused around the Franklin Presbyterian Church where she taught Sunday school and led their youth group.
After Poppy’s dental practice was well established Leatha invested her time in other endeavors such as moving the growing family to a larger home. They purchased a duplex/flower shop, with a pig field out back, in Carlisle. Leatha fell in love with the fertile soil and she and Poppy set to work remodeling the house and creating gardens. With her tenacity and high energy, the family home was transformed into a delightful, unique, and beautiful home that reflected their large family’s needs. While remodeling the home, another daughter, Katie (Sanjay Kohli) 1967, completed the family. This home became a gathering place over the years. Events held there included twenty years of Girl Scouts, staff parties, pre-prom dance practice, senior graduation parties, dinner parties, backyard football games, and eventually weddings.
Leatha’s lifelong concern about the environment really came alive when she was working with the Girl Scouts. She created a character for herself, the Nature Witch, aka “Poison Ivy”. Her enthusiastic portrayal and ringing cackle left a lasting impression on many Girl Scouts who attended Camp Stonybrook.
Leatha continued to promote better education by helping Carlisle pass their school bond and getting the Franklin-Springboro Library Levy passed. She served on the board of Warren County Adult New Readers and was a long-time member of The Ten O’clock Scholars book club. In later years, she and Poppy became active members of the Engineer’s Club of Dayton, where Leatha filled many roles leading up to her passionate involvement in the Dayton TechFest.
Together with her sons, Andy and Bruce, Leatha started Architectural Reclamation, Inc. a historic building preservation contracting company, which has contributed to the restoration and preservation of local landmarks and private homes in this area for over 40 years. Once “ArchRec” was well launched, she stepped aside, but continued to take an active interest for the rest of her life. Architectural Reclamation currently employs ten people and is an ongoing legacy to Leatha’s vision.
Leatha and Poppy were blessed with eleven grandchildren and two step-grandchildren: Sky Stewart, Lillian Stewart, Fiona (Eric) Wildman, Robert Stewart (Anna Haas), Benjamin Tompkins, Elizabeth Tompkins (John Jones), Amy Tompkins, Matthew Tompkins, Alfred (Arshia) Simkin, Charles (Drew) Simkin, Eva (Jonathan) Caldera, Mira Kohli and Neven Kohli. Leatha was determined to help each grandchild reach their potential. She taught them skills not taught in school and engaged them in long discussions about political justice, environmental awareness, philosophy, art and music. The grandchildren also learned how to complete a job and to be critical of their own work. In addition to her husband of 69 years, her five children and her grandchildren, Leatha is survived by seven great-grandchildren: Sienna and Silas Wildman, Saoirse Haas-Stewart, Logan and Luca Simkin, Harrison and Penelope Caldera; sister Rea Marie Fulkerson, brother-in-law Jim Barrett, niece Nicole Barrett, nephew Mark Barrett, and her faithful dog Dolly. Preceding her in death were her parents and her beloved sister, Nancy Fulkerson Barrett.
Family and friends are invited to a memorial gathering at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 415 N. Main St., Springboro, Ohio on Saturday March 7, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. with a brief service of remembrance at 3:30pm. A celebration of her life and family reunion will be held at the Stewart home in Carlisle, in June.
In lieu of flowers, please take a child to the Dayton TechFest (free on 2-15-20) and / or donate to Warren County Community Services Adult New Readers (570 N. OH 741, Lebanon, OH 45036 www.wccsi.org ), Franklin Area Historical Society (302 Park Ave., Franklin, OH 45005 www.franklinohiomuseums.org ), Franklin Area Community Services - Food Pantry (345 South Main St, Franklin, OH 45005 www.facswarren.org ) or the Covenant Presbyterian Church Roosevelt Organ Restoration Fund (www.covenantspringboro.com )
- Memorial Gathering Saturday, March 7, 2020
- Celebration of Life and Family Reunion
Leatha F. Stewart
March 4, 2020
Mrs. Stewart was her name to me as I grew up in Carlisle. I often do speeches to groups and they ask me why do you feel like being a sales person and/or traveling to other parts of the world was such an important part of your life. When I stop and think about it I wanted to be a part of learning how others lived and see how others were happy even when they had a different life style than I did in Carlusle. My answer was that I knew I would be in sales because when I was in Girl Scouts I had to get the most badges, sell the most cookies or I wasn't happy until I succeeded. I went to a big event at Mrs. Stewarts house to get a certain badge. You needed to go to the various International booths and learn about their countries, their foods and culture. To this day I still try to display the passion that Mrs. Stewart showed me that weekend. I loved everything about her.
I loved the way she dressed, the way she would teach us how to dress like they did, and do crafts. I loved the way she would carry herself and always teaching us something everytime I was near her. I remember one day walking home from school crying because I had been a cheerleader for a while but my senior year I was not chosen and she saw me walking down the Street crying and she said to me in life there will be disappointments and we must deal with them. At that moment I realized she was right. My only regret is that I drove by her house many many times and I should have stopped to say thank you for being a special person in my life. She will be someone I will never forget. I still see her smile and beautiful scarfs and outfits. You will be remembered.
February 24, 2020
My mother and Leatha were friends and every holiday we decorated our church. We all spent many hours making wreaths, adding greens to the "Zulu Lady", wiring greens to make garland.
Leatha took Mary, Bess, my sister and I to see a ballet in Cincinnati. While we were in the performance it had begun to snow pretty hard. Leatha drove with her head out of the window so she could see while keeping 4 little girls entertained!
She was a very special lady and I will always have special memories of Girl Scouts, campouts, pre-prom dancing lessons, dinners...… with her and her family!
February 9, 2020
I’m so sorry to read about her passing. I first met Leatha when I worked at Dr. Stewart’s Office. My first memory of her was when I answered the phone (age 18) right out of highschool. Leatha explained to me that my phone voice needed to be happier and more cheerful. I worked on that, mainly because I was afraid she would call again and I wouldn’t be chipper enough. Fast word a few years, my mom called the office I was working at, at the time. She commented on how nice my phone voice was when she called. I explained to her that I have Leatha Stewart to thank for that, as she coached me on what to say and how to say it. Leatha was tough, but when you got to know her she was sweet and caring. She once gave me a bunch of fabric to quilt with. I still have a lot of the fabric that she gave me Over 25 years ago. Rest In Peace Leatha, I am glad I had the pleasure of knowing you.
February 8, 2020
She was a force of nature who helped many people, including me, learn to respect nature and helping others in any way you can. I will never forget her. Sending condolences to the family and friends of this remarkable woman.