The news of Trenton City activist Pat Stewart’s passing has hit me hard.
It’s difficult to let a friend go, especially one that you’ve stood beside for so long and in so many capacities. I can’t remember exactly when I first came across Pat Stewart. I was new to Trenton’s political scene and Pat seemed to know everybody. Everybody.
But no matter who she was talking to, whether friend or not, she spoke her mind including to me. Pat would not tolerate what she saw as foolishness. And frankly we’ve had more than our fair share of that in Trenton.
The Reinvent Trenton blog owes quite a bit to Pat Stewart. My first foray into real politics was with the Lamberton Historic District Committee over Doug Palmer’s plan to tear down the Kearney homes and replace it with a new government housing project. She couldn’t understand why we’d tear down one housing project which, in her words “was strong enough to withstand a nuclear war” just to build another one. We like to think that our efforts helped defeat that project. Because of that effort we now have very nice market rate (non-government) housing on that site.
Pat, along with that same group, rallied the South Trenton neighborhood in opposition to Leewood Development’s proposal (again with Doug Palmer’s support) to bulldoze 8 square blocks of historic housing stock along Centre Street. Though hers and the group’s efforts over 300 residents showed up at several citizen’s meetings to oppose the project. The opposition was eventually too intense for Palmer and Leewood and they retreated.
With these successes under her belt she encouraged former City Councilman Jim Coston to organize an urban studies book club for residents who wanted to be better educated about revitalization issues. For many of us, this group was our education. We read the literature on urban revitalization and invited guest speakers of national renown to talk with us. It’s an education that led directly to this blog. Pat Stewart was a ring leader of that group.
My affiliation with Pat has continued throughout almost all of my civic endeavors. She was a leader in the Trenton Council of Civic Associations and was vocal with the Trenton Republican committee. She joined me in Fix Trenton’s Budget and Majority for a Better Trenton. She put her hat into the ring in the 2009 Special election for South Ward Council and as everyone with an ounce of familiarity with Trenton politics knows, Pat Stewart was a fixture at City Council.
Pat, who was self-admittedly intimidated by technology, even started her own blog, Lamberton Lilly. She made short and to the point comments about the goings on in Trenton. She had a following.
Pat was everywhere and so much a part of Trenton for me that it I’m sure I will think of her often in the years to come. I know that when our next administration finally crafts a real strategy for Trenton and it includes a real marketing plan for our city, I’ll probably shed a tear and hope that Pat knows that her constant admonition has finally come to pass.
In many ways Reinvent Trenton has been written with Pat in mind. It puts into words the ideas she had in her head. I know this because she constantly encouraged and commented favorably on my articles. I knew I was on the right track if Pat liked the article.
Of course Pat’s influence goes far beyond what I know about personally. She was a leader in the STARS civic association for many years, sat on the Zoning Board and was recently appointed by City Council to sit on the Ethics Commission. These are places of honor in Trenton.
I know that her son Nicholas knows how we all feel about his mom. I also know that the most important thing for a family member to know when a loved one passes is that the loved one will be remembered. Nicholas, that is a certainty.