Decades worth of dedicated community service and generous volunteerism has landed long-time Oakdale resident Wes Stewart the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“This is great for Wes Stewart,” said Oakdale Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola, “he has a positive influence on so many lives.”
Stewart, who arrived in Oakdale at the age of 12 when his family moved from Oklahoma during the “Grapes of Wrath” was a city councilman from 1964 to 1969, mayor from 1970 to 1972, and city clerk from 1976 to 1980.
“This was a complete surprise to me,” Stewart said. “There are so many people that help the community that also deserve this. I’m very humbled.”
A member of the city’s CAPS program since 1995, Stewart said he was notified of the award by another CAPS member while on a CAPS assignment
Stewart, 77, is also active in the Young at Heart program for senior citizens through Oak Valley Church. In 1997, Stewart organized a senior outreach program through CAPS when he saw the need for a senior support program.
Stewart now is active daily with both organizations. He visits the elderly as a CAPS Senior Outreach representative making efforts to improve and enhance the lives of those he visits. For the “Young at Heart” group, seniors get together for music, singing, lunch and sometimes a trip. For Senior Outreach and Young at Heart, he is a listening ear to assure that they are cared about and important. Many have said he puts a smile on the senior’s faces and lights up their life.
Stewart provides assistance with his many resources and ensures that they are in a safe and secure environment.
“I felt the need to help seniors for a better quality of life so they could do things and discover new things they were not doing,” Stewart said.
He also said he is very grateful to still be active, especially after suffering a heart attack in September 2013.
While on a CAPS assignment visiting a senior, he fell ill with chest pain and a low blood pressure. He credits the quick action of fellow CAPS volunteer Sonya Schall with quick action to get him to the hospital and the treatment of Oak Valley ER physician Dr. Rei Young.
He said while in the emergency room Police Chief Lester Jenkins responded to check on his welfare and stay with his wife Margie.
“How many chiefs of police would leave their desk with all they have to do and stay with me and my wife?” Stewart asked. “It was very admirable. Oakdale is a wonderful town because of those types of things.”
Stewart, a 1953 graduate of Oakdale High School, worked in his parent’s grocery business after graduating. He also joined the Army National Guard at that time, serving time during the Korean War.
“The headquarters for the local guard unit was in the back of the H-B bar at that time,” said Stewart.
Interestingly, at age 44 on the encouragement of then-Colonel Tim Hodgson, Stewart went back into full time military duty serving at the Modesto National Guard Armory in food service where he received three Meritorious Service Awards prior to retiring.
Stewart, and others in the community, will be recognized when the chamber hosts its 68th Annual Awards Dinner, titled “Guiding Light,” on Friday, Jan. 17, at 6 p.m.