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Riders turn out to pay tribute to Tom Stewart and his family
Nearly 40 Islanders took to the trails Sunday in a quiet show of respect for a man who made his mark on Vashon as a stalwart equestrian and generous supporter of Vashon’s tightknit horse community.
The group, organized by Marie Bradley, gathered at Paradise Ridge Park where they saddled up, distributed flags and began an hour-long ride to honor Tom Stewart, his wife Madena, their 5-year-old daughter Syndey and helicopter pilot Rick Morton. The four, as well as Madena’s brother Mailang Abudula, were killed in Arizona on Feb. 14, when the helicopter Morton was piloting crashed.
The ride, much of it on trails Stewart owned and opened up to riders, included three riderless horses — somber symbols of what Bradley called the Stewart family’s last ride.
Lewis Roggenbuck, who knew Stewart for more than 30 years, led the procession, holding a Quarterhorse named Parley to represent Stewart’s final ride.
Lizzy Corliss, a high school student and president of the Island’s 4-H club, led a pony named Boss with pink boots in the stirrups — meant to represent Sydney’s ride. Brian Vance led an Arab named Frolic in honor of Madena.
Bradley said she was pleased by the response on what turned out to be a chilly and gray afternoon.
“I think this is just the thing he’d like,” she said. “He liked trail rides.”
Bradley carried a flag and a bouquet of white roses that she left at the entrance to Stewart’s estate, Misty Isle Farm, on S.W. 220th Street, where a small pile of flowers was beginning to accumulate.
Roggenbuck said he was honored to lead the procession. Though he considered Stewart an acquiantance, he said he also felt he got to know Stewart well over the years.
“He treated everyone with a lot of respect and kindness,” he said. “I thought he was a great guy. I’m just proud and happy I could do this for him.”
At the end of the ride, the group gathered again at Paradise Ridge, where they shared stories about Stewart and a cake that carried the words, “Until we meet again.”