Obituary: John Stewart, 80, Branch. 

December 23, 2020

John Stewart

Obituary: John Stewart, 80, Branch. 

John Tilford Stewart, Jr. of Branch, Lake County, formerly of Ludington, Lansing, and Owosso and Beaver Dam, Ky., passed away on Friday, December 19, 2020, at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. He was 80 years old.

Surviving John are his wife, Roxy and son Austin (Charlie Dill). Also surviving are his loving stepchildren and grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, as well as a host of adoring aunts and uncles, cousins, and lifelong friends from Kentucky to Michigan.

John was the only child born to Delsie Phelps and John Tilford Stewart, Sr. on January 26, 1940, at the High View Mining Company village on the banks of the Green River in Prentiss, Ohio County, Ky. John Sr. proudly served the first years of “Johnny’s” life in World War II, and was a Pearl Harbor survivor, having heard the first wave and engaged in the second. Following the war and the closure of the Kentucky mine, John Sr. took a job at Fisher Body-Ternstedt Division in Michigan and moved the family north; Delsie was a lifelong devoted homemaker and mother.

John Jr. came of age in Owosso, where he graduated from the local high school in 1958 having played basketball and marched in the band (he “played” trombone), and served his community as a Freemason (Lodge #81). He attended the General Motors Institute before enrolling in the Professional Barber School in Hamtramck, where his love of storytelling and helping others merged into an honorable profession.

John’s true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States led him to enlist in the Michigan National Guard in 1964. His devotion to the armed forces was constant. He retired in 1991 as a colonel of the U.S. Army Reserves after 27 years of distinguished service; having also been commissioned as quartermaster, he assisted the preparation of battalions during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, managed operations of the Dover Port Mortuary, and audited the Michigan National Guard and its armories.

After his first retirement, he moved to Ludington with his son, Austin. John was and still is known in his community as “The Great American Barber.” He was as devoted to displaying the American flag outside of his shop as he was to giving every young boy who behaved well during their haircut more than his fair share of peanut butter M&M’s.

Austin’s musical and theatrical activities kept them both busy; his brief stint with soccer led to John’s happy meeting of Roxanna (Roxy) Spurgis. Roxy soon became a confidant and companion to John, and they were married on April 19, 2002, in Ludington. After John’s second retirement, he and Roxy enjoyed together travels near and far, from Alaska to Scotland to Israel, from skiing and being in nature around their home to worshipping together at Faith Fellowship Church in Irons; their most cherished pastime, however, was being with family.

In lieu of flowers, and in keeping with John’s camaraderie with many wonderful dogs during his life, donations are requested for Mason County PAWS Humane Society, which seeks to build the area’s first no-kill shelter. Give online at or mail a check to Mason County PAWS, PO Box 132, Scottville, MI 49454.

Arrangements were entrusted to Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington,