Rate /Rank: Cadet Midshipman USMMA

Son of J. Norton and Elizabeth Lockett Stewart

Born: February 26, 1924 in Memphis, Tenn. 

Age on July 9, 1943: 19


To pursue a career in commercial art, his dad moved the family to New Orleans and then to Pass Christian, a small town east of New Orleans on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Norton inherited much of his Dad's talent for art. He loved to draw. His scrap books are filled with sketches of boats and airplanes, the things he dreamed of. Like his dad, he was good with tools and could build most anything. He also had an interest in electronics and became a HAM radio operator. But his real love were boats and sailing.

He was junior commodore of Pass Christian Yacht Club and sailed on several long distance races. He spent his last summer as a deck hand on a tug boat hauling barges between Mobile and New Orleans.

With the war raging, and many of his friends signing up, Norton was as determined to volunteer as his dad was determined to keep him home as long as possible. When a U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Basic School opened up nearby, dad reluctantly gave his permission. He graduated from Pass Christian High School in the class of 1943 with acceptable marks to gain admission.

The training course was eight weeks and then sea duty for a year or more before going to the academy at Kings Point NY. In his own words, this is what he thought about going to sea:

"Boy did I get a beauty--she's a Liberty only 7 months old...I've never seen anything so magnificent or have I ever been as happy.

"I am on a wonderful ship, a fine crew and one of the best masters. He is a man of about 50 or 60 and has an Irish accent. Smart as a whip. You know the entire crew is not much older than I am. 

"Don't worry about me because all of us (the gun crew of which I am one) are young and don't give a damn. Why I wouldn't take a million bucks and all that came with it for this trip.

"One of the gunners was standing watch in the forward tub. A gull had been following us for some time, came right in and landed in his hand.

"Remember that run I said I hoped I'd get? Well, I think I have it only sailing the opposite way, which is OK...will sure be glad to get what we're carrying to wherever it's going."

This would have been the last we heard from Norton because it was soon afterwards that my parents got the dreaded news that all the other parents and loved ones received. But, unexpectedly, my mother received a letter from a young lady in Perth. She explained that Norton offered her his seat on a crowded bus going from Fremantle to Perth.

After some conversation she offered to show him around the University at Perth where she was headed. They both enjoyed the day and Norton asked her if she would mind writing to his mother because she could say more than he could. It was a really nice letter and, or course, she had no idea of Norton's fate. Mother corresponded with her and her kind replies and descriptions of their day together were a great comfort.
    

 

  


John Norton Stewart, Jr.

  

Time went by and we didn't talk about Norton very much because it was just too painful for my parents. But not a day went by that we didn't think about our older brother. 

My parents have passed on, but I have children and grandchildren and my older sister has children and grandchildren. We don't want our brother to be forgotten. Eric Andersen's research into the fate of the SS Samuel Heintzelman is a wonderful tribute to the memory of these brave sailors.  I hope this biography of my brother will add to their story.


Dedication

Plaque on Memorial bearing 
the name of John Stewart, Jr.

Mr. and Mrs. David Stewart at the
Memorial
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
Kings Point, NY
Biographic information provided by:
David A. Stewart, Brother
Nancy Stewart Dana, Sister

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