Rodger “Tony” Stuart, born April 28, 1948 at Parks Victory Hospital in Napa, passed away at home in Napa on April 17, 2013, after a long, courageous battle with cancer.
Tony is survived by his wife, Toni, of 33 years; his faithful kitty, Kiki; sisters-in-law, Sheri (Brett) and Tracey; brothers-in-law, Dave (Janet), Steve (Kim) and Mike (Phyllis); nieces, Kacy, Danica, Mindy (Wes) and Heidi (Chris); nephews, Eric (Katherine) and Anthony; sister, Linda; and all of his wonderful Nebraska relatives who have loved him over the years.
Tony attended Salvador Elementary, Redwood Middle School and graduated from Napa High School in 1966.
As a child, he was involved in 4-H raising steers, and over the years he continued to be involved as an avid supporter.
Tony worked with his father on his family’s prune orchard here in the valley as a youth, the beginning of his uncanny ability to figure anything out using his analytical nature and skills.
He played sports in high school, and continued to enjoy following the various teams, as well as the challenge of playing fantasy football with his friends.
Tony served his country by joining the U.S. Army on Jan. 4, 1967. After basic training at Fort Ord, Calif., he went to OCS Artillery Prep followed by OCS at Fort Sill, Okla.
On Nov. 21, 1967, he was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant. He went on to Basic Flight School training at Fort Wolters, Texas, and Advanced Flight School in Savannah, Ga., obtaining his Rotorcraft license.
On his 21st birthday, he was en route to Vietnam. He was commissioned Captain on Nov. 21, 1969, while serving with the 268th Combat Aviation Battalion Headquarters Company in Vietnam. At that time, he was one of the youngest commissioned captains in the U.S. Army.
On Feb. 26, 1970, among his other commendations, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. After he returned to the United States, he taught at the flight school in Fort Rucker, Ala.
After the military, he worked in Louisiana, flying helicopters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. He spent the next three years working in Ecuador, flying in the jungles supporting oil exploration. After a break from flying, he returned and then flew from the tuna boats in the San Diego area, supporting the fisherman going to Panama and Mexico.
Next, Tony taught at a flight school in Albany, Ore., teaching pilots to long line with the helicopter. This is where he met the love of his life and future wife, Toni. The next move for them was to the Salinas area, where Tony flew helicopters supporting oil exploration in the Western states. He also flew seasonally for the Mammoth Heli-Ski operation for several years, taking skiers to untouched ski areas.
In 1984, Tony started a helicopter business with a partner and began his career in the power line construction business. In 1992, he branched off and started his own business. He flew on jobs all over the United States, supporting new construction, line repair, fiber optic work and upgrades.
In 1996, he went to work with Winco Helicopters as a minority owner and continued working with them until his passing. At one time, he was the company chief pilot, FAA check airman, held his 133, 135 ratings and his CFI license, and was an exceptionally skilled and talented helicopter pilot.
Tony was involved with Helicopters Association International, Utilities Patrol and Construction Committee based in Alexandria, Va., where he held the chairman position for six years. This committee is responsible for helping establish and clarify safety guidelines for the industry. Tony was proud of this association, as it helped create a safer working environment for his fellow pilots and the linemen. His committee peers considered him a pioneer who showed leadership for their industry.
Tony met and made many, many close, lifelong friends over the years and in his travels, all of whom are heartbroken to lose him. Their outpouring of love and support has been beyond measure. It was hard not to love him.
Tony was a natural gardener and thoroughly enjoyed puttering in his yard and with the earth, growing beautiful veggies. His home was his passion, and he was a perfectionist in all things. After so many years on the road, he enjoyed nothing better than being home here in Napa with friends and cooking a good meal. Oh yes, he could cook, too. He had a remarkable memory for history and military events and enjoyed black and white movies and old television shows.
We are grateful to all the doctors and nurses who, over the years, have gently tended to him during his illness. In lieu of flowers, we would request that any donations be directed to The Pathway Home at the Yountville Veterans Home and Napa Valley Hospice.
Tony was always an optimist — a cheerful, fun-loving man with the most beautiful voice and laugh. He was determined, pragmatic, generous, loyal and a man of his word. To say he will be missed is such an understatement. There are no words.
A service to honor Tony’s life will be on Sunday, April 28, at 1 p.m. in the Tulocay Chapel. Memories and words of sympathy may be sent to the family online at TulocayCemetery.org.