Grave Sightings: Jimmy Stewart

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Stacy Conradt

For years, every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles (cemetery and/or tombstone enthusiasts) out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

Cliche as it may be, Jimmy Stewart really did have a wonderful life. You already know about his illustrious acting career that garnered him a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and parts in some of the most iconic movies in Hollywood history. But Stewart was also an accomplished Brigadier General in the Air Force, rising from private to colonel in just four years and flying missions during WWII that earned him the Croix de Guerre, the Air Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He dated many of the most beautiful and accomplished women in Hollywood before settling down with wife Gloria at the age of 41. He adopted Gloria’s two sons; they later had twin daughters. Later in life, Stewart’s investments in real estate, oil wells, and aviation made him a multimillionaire. And that’s just the CliffsNotes version!

Though he lived a long and eventful life, it could have been even longer. After a long string of ailments ranging from blood clots to irregular heartbeats, Stewart was due to have his pacemaker changed in December 1996. His beloved wife of 44 years had died of lung cancer less than two years prior, leaving him utterly heartbroken. Stewart told his doctor not to bother with the pacemaker, preferring to let things happen naturally. They did—on July 2, 1997, a blood clot lodged in his lungs, causing a heart attack that would kill him instantly.

Despite his icon status and immeasurable contributions to the film industry, Jimmy Stewart’s grave is quiet and unassuming. There’s no grand mausoleum or ostentatious statue—just a simple marker, set in the ground, with a verse from Psalms. As a humble man who wanted to be remembered as someone who ''believed in hard work and love of country, love of family and love of community," it's no doubt exactly what he would have wanted.

See all entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

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January 2, 2014 - 1:00pm
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