April 16, 1947 – March 15, 2019
Alton Lee Steward, a retired educational support staff member and an assistant softball and basketball coach in Buffalo schools, died March 15 in his home in Snyder after a lengthy illness. He was 71.
Born in Kelford, N.C., he spent part of his childhood in Virginia’s Tidewater region and was a medal-winning athlete at Southwestern High School in Windsor, N.C.
He served in the Army as a troop leader in the Vietnam War and was classified with a disability later in life due to exposure to Agent Orange.
Returning from service, he came to Buffalo and found jobs with Seneca Plumbing, Anaconda American Brass and the Buffalo Parks Department, where he was supervisor of Centennial Pool in the mid-1970s.
“He told people, ‘I can do anything and I’ll show you,’ ” his daughter, Allita Steward, said.
During the city’s bus strike in 1969, he offered a ride to work to one of his neighbors, Shirley Lorraine McDougald. They were married in 1971.
“He had a cool sports car,” another daughter, Monica Colston, said. “It was pink and it was a convertible. The guys all made fun of him, but he thought it was sporty.”
Mr. Steward also attended SUNY Buffalo State and, after earning certification, became a teacher’s aide in Buffalo schools.
“He helped out in our elementary school, the Waterfront School,” Monica said. “He also coached the girls’ basketball team when it won a championship.”
At Hutchinson Central Technical High School, he was called on to employ the full range of his talents.
“He would fill in any blank they had,” Monica said. “He could teach a class, especially if it came to wood shop, mechanics or drafting or anything to do with history.”
He also built drafting tables, helped design the school logo with an image of an engineer and served as a volunteer assistant basketball coach.
In all, he was an assistant high school basketball coach for more than 30 years, beginning at East and Fosdick Masten high schools and moving on to City Honors School and Hutchinson Central, Kensington and Grover Cleveland high schools.
Known to many as “Coach Stu,” he assisted in bringing girls’ and boys’ basketball and softball teams to numerous Yale Cup, Section VI and regional tournament titles.
He became a close friend of college basketball coach John Beilein when he was head coach at Erie Community College in the late 1970s and maintained the relationship as Beilein, now head coach at the University of Michigan, went on to other colleges.
When Beilein was coach at Canisius College in the 1990s, Mr. Steward and his wife provided a place to stay for out-of-town prospects that Beilein was recruiting.
Mr. Steward recommended several players he coached to Beilein and helped many players and other students with their college applications.
He closed his career with seven years at Grover Cleveland under coach Earl Schunk, retiring in 2004 after the Presidents reached the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A final four in Glens Falls.
He also assisted as a supervisor in All-High Stadium, overseeing crowds at Harvard Cup football, track meets and other events.
He enjoyed traveling on summer breaks, taking his wife and children on the road from coast to coast in motor homes. He was a member of several RV clubs, including Good Sam, KOA and Yogi Bear. A skilled mechanic, he kept numerous vehicles in working order.
A resident of the Hamlin Park and University Heights neighborhoods before moving to Snyder about 20 years ago, he was a member of the American Legion and the Chapel at Crosspoint and was a former Buffalo Braves season ticket holder.
His wife, a clerk for the Buffalo Board of Education, died in 2006.
Survivors include three daughters, Monica Colston, Allita Steward and Dana Kemp; three sisters, Barbara Harris, Linda Harris and Cynthia Gaddy; three brothers, Calvin Ruffin, Mark Ruffin and Matthew Gaddy; and four grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday, March 22, in Ephesus Ministries, 341 Grider St.