Tue | Apr 16, 2024

Jill Stewart hailed for courage, grace

Published:Sunday | July 16, 2023 | 12:12 AMJanet Silvera - Senior Gleaner Writer
Jill and Adam Stewart.
Jill and Adam Stewart.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jill Stewart, who fought valiantly against cancer for over a year, died Friday night, deeply shaking the core of her family and a close-knit community that had come to admire her brave soul.

Stewart, who was married to hotel mogul Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International, touched many hearts with her remarkable strength and resilience, as well as her openness about sarcoma, a rare type of cancer.

Adam Stewart, who had been with his best friend for 28 years, said her death has been “unimaginable” as he broke the news in a Twitter post on Saturday.

Openly speaking of the pain he is going through, the father of three said they were all heartbroken.

“From the moment we received her terrible diagnosis a little more than a year ago, Jill was certain she wanted to share her journey, our family’s journey, wherever it led. Opening herself to this community was brave and generous,” he tweeted.

He said that her will to fight was stronger than anything he had ever seen and she never gave up.

“Hers will forever be a story of courage, strength, and grace. We are shattered to begin this new journey without her, but the love she left us will be our guide,” he wrote.

As news of her death spread, state officials, players in the tourism sector, and running organisations that the 10K and marathon runner supported unreservedly began sharing tributes.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Stewart’s death was “a devastating blow that has left us all with a profound sense of grief.

“Her story will forever be etched in our hearts as a testament to her courage, grace, and resilience. We grieve with you, and we are here to provide comfort, strength, and solace in the face of your immense loss,” he added, noting that she had touched many lives through her selflessness.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett described Stewart as a great mother and great partner to one of the Caribbean’s finest entrepreneurs, who he said took the best care of his wife during the illness.

“We want to laud him, even in this moment of pain, for being that quintessential husband,” said Bartlett, adding that the couple’s bond was a model of how true love and marriage ought to be.

Born in The Bahamas, Stewart moved to Jamaica in 2005. She owned a pilates studio with her friend, Sheila Pinto, and was an avid runner and ardent supporter of Montego Bay’s first 10K/5K run and walk for education, the MoBay City Run (MBCR).

Since its inception, Stewart’s commitment to the triple causes of education, fitness, and promotion of her beloved city aligned fully with the purpose of the event, said founding member Dr Luz Longsworth.

“We benefited from her participation and her patronage as she entered and won the 10K race on more than one occasion prior to the hiatus from COVID. She was an inspiration to other female runners and an inspiration to us all as she ran this final race,” said Longsworth, who is an educator.

During the recent staging in May 2023, the organising committee named the female 10k trophy after Stewart, “an honour most deeply deserved”, Longsworth noted.

“We send our sincere condolences to her beloved husband, Adam, her children and all her family and friends. She fought the good fight. She will always be remembered by the MBCR team and the scores of runners she inspired,” said Longsworth.

Stewart, who met her Jamaican husband at boarding school when she was 15 years old, said she ran during high school and found her way back to the sport after having her three children.

“It gave me peace of mind – escaping, being on the road alone,” she told Stephenie Rodriquez of Jozu for Women during a 2017 interview.

Renowned for creating communities, Stewart was credited for bringing people together who aligned with the same purpose. She did this mainly through running and fitness programmes.

“I loved that my children know the words pilates, marathon, travel. There are not a lot of kids with that as part of their vocabulary, but mine breathe it,” said Stewart.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com