Humble about his accomplishments, officer’s legacy is his service

Virginia Beach Master Police Officer Chuck Lauchner, kneeling, presents a unit pin for the mounted patrol to the family of the late Wes Stewart, who served in the unit among his many assignments during 32 years of service to the department. Two of Stewart’s children, 7-year-old Ian and 12-year-old Geni, and his wife, Joy, received the pin. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

VIRGINIA BEACH — City police, friends and loved ones on Saturday, April 15, celebrated the life of retired Master Police Officer Wesley “Wes” K. Stewart, who may have said little about his accomplishments serving his nation and his city but spoke volumes through his kindness, smile and professionalism.

Stewart served the city police for 32 years, and he helped Virginia Beach most recently as a community service officer. In that role, he died on Saturday, April 8, after suffering a medical emergency. He had just assisted a motorist with a flat tire. Stewart was 60.

He is survived by his wife, Joy, and four children. He is also survived by his father, Harold Stewart, and a brother and a sister, according to an obituary.

A service celebrating Stewart was held on Saturday, April 15, at the Rosewood-Kellum Funeral Home. He was to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

Stewart joined the city police department in 1979. He served in uniform patrol in the Second Precinct, as a special investigations detective and with the mounted patrol unit before his 2011 retirement, according to biographical information provided by the department.

He served for three decades as a reservist with the Army National Guard, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2015 after deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia.

This past year, Stewart became a community service officer, supported the police department anew and continuing a career marked by compassion for citizens.

“It comes as no surprise that Wes would pass in service to the community of a broken heart,” said Smithtown, N.Y., Public Safety Deputy Chief Kevin McPadden during the service for Stewart.

McPadden and Stewart became close friends as young officers in Virginia Beach during the late 1970s and early 1980s. McPadden described Stewart as someone who cared deeply about those he served with. He never mentioned his decorations, McPadden said.

Army Lt. Col. Leslie Parks, who served with Stewart, said he cared for not only his comrades but the people who lived in the war-torn places to which he deployed.

Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera remembered meeting Stewart when they were young patrol officers. Stewart smiled often, and he never seemed to age.

“We’re cops, a lot of us,” Cervera said during the service, “and we’ve done the cop thing a long time.”

It’s a life in which people do things the average person only reads about, he said, and retiring from the job doesn’t mean you retire in your heart. And the chief said Stewart had another duty – that of the citizen soldier.

“Very few people on the face of this earth have done both at the same time,” he said.
Master Police Officer Linda Kuehn, a department spokesperson, worked as Stewart’s partner in the mounted patrol.

“A police partnership is different than just anything else,” she said in a telephone interview. “You really have to rely upon each other.” Stewart was an excellent partner. He was great at the work, someone who inspired confidence in others. His demeanor stood out.

“He was always happy – just smiling all the time, that positive attitude,” Kuehn said

He was that way with colleagues, she said, but he treated citizens with that same dignity and respect. “He never had an off-tone thing to say about anybody,” she said. “He was going to be that person who links and connects everybody.”

Family meant everything to him, she said.

When Stewart deployed, fellow police officers sometimes would joke that he was leaving them again.

“We hated losing him,” Kuehn said. “When he came back, it was like he never left. Wes was Wes. … He was just the most humble person. You would never know the successes he made in the guard. It was not something that he talked about.”

Decorations were not what mattered in Stewart’s life, his former partner said.

“What was important to him were the relationships he had with people and helping us accomplish our mission on the street.”

The late Wes Stewart served in the Virginia Beach Police Mounted Patrol Unit, among other assignments during a law enforcement career that lasted more than three decades. [Courtesy of Linda Crovatt/Foxwood Photography]

© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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