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William T. Stewart ’73

October 20, 2021, in Edgartown, Massachusetts, from thyroid cancer.

William grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where his father was a math professor at Brown University. The family spent summers at a camp on Seth’s Pond, and, as a child, William lived in London for several years while his father was a visiting lecturer at Imperial College.

He wrote his thesis, “Miles of Earth, Rivers of Heaven,” advised by Prof. Ieva Vitins [Russian 1970–77]. He moved to San Francisco in the late ’70s and worked as a professional calligrapher whose works included a logo for the long-running NPR series Music from the Hearts of Space and calligraphy for books by the poet James Broughton. William was particularly proud of his mail art that featured calligraphy and chromatically complementary antique stamps. His art appears in the San Francisco Public Library’s Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering.

William lost several close friends to AIDS in the early years of the epidemic. He volunteered with Shanti Project, one of the world’s first community-based organizations to help support people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He participated in the formation of the Radical Faeries, an association of queer-identified individuals founded in 1979 whose shared beliefs include free expression, an appreciation for nature, and a wry campiness.

Following his mother’s death in 1991, William moved to Martha’s Vineyard and lived in the camp on the pond. He created beautiful gardens around his house and an intricate web of trails featuring found art and installations at every turn. He was the quintessential host and creative cook, and stimulating conversation was assured at his formal meals and high teas. William involved himself in many activities and causes, serving on the board of the Vineyard Conservation Society, assisting at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and celebrating with the Unitarian Universalist Pagans. His writing prowess, editing skills, and generosity served those organizations well.

After his father’s death in 2012, William relocated to California, where he cofounded Groundswell, a queer retreat center and intentional community located on 184 acres in Mendocino County. He laid plans for Groundswell’s long-term survival, intending the forested refuge to remain a place of ecological stewardship, social justice, and service to queer and other marginalized peoples.

True to form, William chronicled his final journey in recent months with intensity and humor, writing: “A lifetime of spiritual malpractice is fairly paying off. If I can avoid the medical conveyor belt, I get to have an amazing experience. I feel blessed to have both the opportunity and the psychic resources to be able to model a good end-of-life process; it’s something I hadn’t foreseen being able to offer, but it’s an honor and I accept it unhesitatingly.” He is survived by a close circle of dear friends and fellow travelers.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2022

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