Fireman killed in 22 accident was always willing to help
ROSSMOOR The firefighter and self-taught handyman never got a chance to finish his final project.
Dean Stewart arrived home from work early Tuesday morning, went straight into his back yard to pull apart some pool equipment before heading out for supplies, leaving his tool belt and a coffee cup outside.
Dean never returned from his Home Depot run. He was struck down in an accident on the 22 Freeway.
The details may never be clear, but authorities say Dean was hit by a big-rig traveling eastbound on the freeway as his pickup sat on the shoulder, its hood up and engine running.
“For him to pull over to the side of the road and to have his flashers on, we don’t know what happened, and we may never find out, but the first thing we all thought is that he stopped to help somebody,” said Jill Stewart, Dean’s wife. “Because that is the type of person he was.”
From his early years in the Navy to his 19-year stint as a firefighter in variety of communities in the southern portion of Los Angeles County, Dean was always looking to lend a hand to those who needed it.
Along the way, the Florida native found a home in Rossmoor, where Jill, his wife of 19 years, and her parents have lived for more than 40 years. Dean, who had lost his parents and his brother, was happy to embrace the family.
“He wasn’t a scholar, that wasn’t his thing. But he knew he wanted to help people,” Jill said. “So, he went into the Navy with his brother, and when his mother got sick, he went home to help her. Then he came back to start a family, and becoming a fireman was a perfect fit for him.”
A loyal, witty and congenial man, Dean was never one for the spotlight but was always there for support.
“He was always taking conversations to the other person, and that is why he was so likeable,” said Earl Fordham, Dean’s father-in-law. “He never brought himself out; he brought them out.”
Dean’s frequent projects may not have been textbook repairs, but they always got the job done, Jill said.
“He was always fixing something for somebody,” Jill said. “It wasn’t always fixed perfectly, but he would challenge it and he would try.” Family members are coming to terms with Dean’s death but say they have been buoyed by supporting friends and neighbors.
“It has made everybody take more time with their loved ones, and I think that is what Dean would have wanted,” said Jill Stewart, Dean’s wife. “Nobody is mad at the person who hit Dean. There is no anger. That isn’t what this community is about. We are all looking at how we can work together and move on, what we can do for the kids, and what lesson there is to be learned.”
Along with his wife Jill, Dean is survived by son Ryan, 15, and daughter Ashley, 18.
Dean’s memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Sea Coast Grace Church, 5100 Cerritos Avenue in Cypress. Supporters have also set up the Dean Stewart Children Trust Fund through the F&A Credit Union at 2625 Corporate Place, Monterey Park, CA 91754.
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