Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tribute to Tom Stewart, a friend to the conservative community

Ralph Benko: America has lost a great man in Tom Stewart

By: Ralph Benko

Tom Stewart, the founder of Services Group of America, died, along with his wife, Madena, his five year old daughter Sydney, and two others, in a helicopter crash north of Phoenix, Arizona, a week ago Sunday.

It was a privilege to have known him, even slightly. He was a very private man and, in his very private way, a national treasure. Although prominently noted in Arizona and Washington State, where he built his business, his passing deserves national notice.

As his corporate biography states, Tom “was a long-time philanthropist who supported education and the arts; a community activist championing free enterprise over government intervention; and an adventurer visiting the far reaches of the globe.

“His 40-year career was remarkable for its continual theme of building successful companies along a road that took him from the rough docksides of Seattle to the careful development of one of the fastest growing and most successful privately-held corporations in America. “

“Growing up in Seattle, especially on the waterfront, was no gilded existence. The weather can often be bleak and the work hard. In lieu of allowance, his father always had work for him to do every school break and summer vacation. As he grew older, his resolve to follow his own path grew stronger.

“Tom Stewart sat atop a multi-billion dollar enterprise that employs thousands of hard working Americans as its sole owner and chairman. Services Group of America's very existence is living testimony to his skill as an opportunistic visionary, a deft financier and a calculating risk taker.

“A consummate world traveler, visiting 128 countries, Tom Stewart was an avid golfer, horseman, rancher, fisherman, skier, pilot, scuba diver and team roper. He appeared in rodeos across the country. He also enjoyed the beauty of gardening and hit the road regularly on one of his seven Harley Davidsons - on which he has ridden from Miami to Seattle, from Mexico to Canada and all over Europe.”

Rachel Alexander, a Phoenix resident who was named 2009 Activist of the Year by Right Online, had this observation: "Tom Stewart was a true Renaissance man. This is a great loss for America. Tom had a strong commitment to free market principles. He followed through with support for principled conservative candidates. Furthermore, with typical foresight he understood how important it is for the conservative movement to fully use new media and was actively planning to engage in this arena. We sorely miss his leadership."

Ralph Benko, a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC, is the author of “The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World.”

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