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Robert Charles Steward

Robert Charles Steward of Portage, MI passed away on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 at the age of 85. He was born in Lake Odessa, MI on February 27, 1936 the son of John and Laura (Pfieffer) Steward.

Robert (Bob) graduated from Vermontville High School and went on to attend Kalamazoo College where he played basketball and football. He graduated in 1958, and was also married that year to Jane Vanden Berge.

Bob started his teaching and coaching career at Richland High School. He spent most of his career at Portage Northern High School (PNHS) as a Social Studies teacher, retiring in 1994. As a coach of track, cross country, and football, Bob had many accomplishments over his 30 years of coaching. He was inducted into the PNHS Hall of Fame, the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association (MITCA) Hall of Fame, and awarded the MITCA Charles Sweeney Award. In his role as coach and teacher he served as mentor, positive influence, and role model to many young people.

In addition, Bob was a member of Michigan Sports Sages for almost 30 years.

Married for 63 years, Bob and Jane enjoyed their travels to places like New Zealand, Australia, China, Costa Rica, Netherlands, France, and Canada. They also traveled extensively in the US, including many treasured trips to Jekyll Island with family, backpacking in Idaho, and a special trip to the Olympics in Atlanta. He and Jane spent many enjoyable hours watching their children and grandchildren participate in sporting events. Bob also enjoyed golf, cribbage, backgammon, 4th of July celebrations, camping, and sharing meals and a good beer with family and friends.

Survived by his wife Jane; his children Lee (Richard) Ballor, Kristen (Norman) Kent, Jim (Debi) Steward, Betsy (Jim) Sell, Tom (Sandy) Steward. Grandchildren: JoAnn and Elizabeth Ballor, Lisa (Craig) Plonka, Jeff and Emily Kent, Janie and Steward Sell, and Zoey, Jenny (Jamie) Dentler, Kimberly (Bret) Barr. Great grandchildren: Casey, Sawyer, and Nolan Plonka, Jayden and Jakson Dentler, Mya, Brody, and Macy Barr.

Preceded in death by parents John and Laura Steward and brothers Doug and Dick.

A private family gathering will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Kalamazoo College Athletic Association at www.kzoo.edu In Memory Of Bob Steward.

While at www.amsfuneralhomes.com please take time to sign Robert's guestbook and/or share a memory with his family.

The Steward family is being cared for by the Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes and Cremation Society, 129 S. Grand Street, Schoolcraft, MI 49087. 269-679-5622


Sorry for your loss.

Joe Topp Jan 9 2022 9:45 PM

I am so sad to hear of Mr. Steward's passing. His family and friends are in my prayers. I was a student of his at PNHS and loved his class! He was an inspiring educator who truly cared for his students, their lives and their education. He will truly be missed by so many.

Cathy (Trotter) Roffe
PNHS Class of 1992

Cathy Roffe Jan 9 2022 6:05 PM

I logged many miles with Coach Stew, literally and figuratively. He was a fixture of my high school years and the source of many stories and motivation decades later as I watched my kids move through high school and their sports endeavors. Coach provided a source of many great memories - the X-Country camping trips were great fun and then there was the time he let me "drive" the team bus across a foggy field at Ferris State Invitational...(we'll stop there). I also appreciated his friendship and interest in my life after high school. He showed me and many kids that if you have integrity and good character (and he had both) that is how you will be measured - not how fast you run. Best wishes to the Steward family.

Brian Pawlak (PNHS 84) Jan 9 2022 11:40 AM

JANE, so sorry to hear of Bob's passing. He was a special person and I am happy to call him friend. I often think of the fun coaches get togethers we had when we were all younger. Time does fly bye.

Rosie [Loney] Coy Jan 8 2022 11:02 AM

Coach Steward was the best coach I ever had. He was indeed a positive role model and someone I sought to emulate. Coaching XC and Track at PNHS during the 1980s took a lot of patience and hard work. Coach Steward was equal to the task. He brought out the best in me as an athlete and a person. I will never forget The His Cross Country Camp and Gun Lake . As a teacher and coach in my 31st year, I can comfortably say, we need more people like coach steward in our field. God Bless you, coach.

Joel Burkey PNHS Class of 1986 Jan 7 2022 5:16 PM

Mr. Steward was a major influence for me while I attended PNHS. He was able to explain many socially abstract concepts that I still use in my perspective on the world today. He could work a chalk board like no other instructor I have had since! Mr. Steward was a positive force in the world, and on me. Please accept my sincere condolences on his passing. PNHS Class of 1975.

Gary Vincent Jan 7 2022 3:03 PM

My family and I knew Bob even before I married into the Sell family nearly 25 years ago. My sons, Adam and Rob went to PNHS and Bob was always known as one of the best teachers---the students always know!
As father of my sister-in-law, Betsy, I was fortunate to be a part of family celebrations that included Bob and Jane. Bob was a great man and I enjoyed talking golf and sports with him at these family get togethers. He will be missed and my sympathies go out to Jane and his children.

Josh Weiner Jan 7 2022 2:40 PM

My thoughts and prayers are with the Steward family. As I read Bob's obituary, I recalled the many times his smile helped me through my early teaching days at PNHS. His bright and calm personality helped me, his students, and other staff look on the bright side of life. May he Rest In Peace.

Linda Stieve Jan 7 2022 12:37 PM

I was so sorry to hear of Bob's passing this week. Bob had a tremendous influence on me as the head coach of the track program at PNHS while I was there, and I am very thankful that our relationship grew in the decades after I graduated. We went from having a coach/athlete relationship to one between two adults, and I always enjoyed visiting Bob and Jane and discussing the issues of the day whenever I got back to the Kalamazoo/Portage area over the years. I am so thankful I was able to visit Bob one last time last July. May he rest in peace.

Erik Henriksen Jan 7 2022 12:06 PM

Jane, I'm so sorry to hear about the passing of your husband. You & your family are in my thoughts & prayers. It's been so long since I've seen you, but it brings back fond memories of our parent's gatherings and of going to the farm with my grandparents to see your grandparents. May it give you hope and peace to know others care.

Laurie Tupper Jan 7 2022 11:06 AM

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