Remembering Captain John Stewart

Photo courtesy of Lisa Rymer
Photo courtesy of Lisa Rymer

I first had the privilege of meeting Captain John Stewart of Island Roots back in early 2012 while island hopping with another charter. I remember him as being a kind, gentle soul who found humor in my playful teasing throughout the day, as I suggested he and his guests engage in a “fun off” with my boat captain, my husband and I. I have fond memories of that day in which I spent time bouncing around the British Virgin Islands with the indelible Captain John Stewart.

Sadly I received word back in May that Captain John was sick and that he was leaving the island and returning to Maine. Earlier today, I learned of his passing. St. John lost a good man this past weekend, a good man that should not be forgotten.

The following is an excerpt from Captain John’s obituary:

John R. Stewart, 62, of South Bristol, and Coral Bay, St. John USVI, passed away June 30, just seven weeks after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Despite the terrible odds, John met the challenge with all the fortitude and preparation that one would expect from a boat captain, and with the frankness, work ethic and good humor his friends and family knew and loved.

John’s life started inland, in Rochester, N.H., but soon moved to York, where he fell in love with the ocean and a blonde, blue-eyed beauty, two years his senior, when he was just 15. Marcia was instantly charmed by his smile and his infectious verve for life – not to mention his gifted guitar playing. 

After John graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UNH with a degree in biological sciences, and Marcia attained her art degree from Syracuse University, they married and made their living in a variety of creative ways, choosing to raise their family in South Bristol so John could study at the Darling Marine Center. Their lives were rich and full of music, boating, laughter and good friends, with John always dreaming of what could be next. 

His career path was winding, opportunistic and ambitious, including marine biologist, commercial SCUBA diver, oyster farmer, seafood processor, garden center and greenhouse (Holly Hill) owner, flower shop (Cottage Gardens) owner, horticulturist, arborist, stone mason and landscaper – with Marcia his partner in life and business at every step of the way. John’s most cherished occupation came in recent years when he became a charter boat captain in the Virgin Islands, taking passengers out in his vessel, Island Roots, for snorkeling and sightseeing. His dry wit, easy smile and expertise made him a natural. 

His favorite things were working alongside his family on the homes they built in St. John and Louds Island, sailing with his wife, and enjoying and exploring the wonders of the natural world. 

John is survived by his wife, Marcia; daughter, Erica; son, Sam; mother, Helen; son-in-law, Lance; daughter-in-law, Amanda; three grandsons; and their many loving family and friends. 

Memories can be shared at www.islandrootsusvi.com/captainjohn, and donations may be made in his name to the Coral Bay Community Council or the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. 

A small gathering will be held on Louds Island, followed by a celebration of his life on Sat., Aug. 3 in Maine, and in St. John at a later date.

10 thoughts on “Remembering Captain John Stewart”

  1. I’m so sad to hear of Captain John’s passing. My sympathy to his family and those of us who thought of him as family. He was a gentle soul and an amazing Captain. May you rest peacefully, Captain John.

  2. Marcia, Amanda, and family, I have a very heavy heart reading about Captain John’s passing. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. May you find some comfort in the many wonderful memories you have.

  3. Dear Marcia and Family, I followed John’s progress via the Coral Bay telegraph because so many of our lives have been touched and enriched by you both. I write this publicly as a form of support and comfort for you and your extended family so all may understand how far and how deep your positive way of going about life have blessed us all. Good memories, kept present and green, carry that person – always with us and still by our side if we chose.

  4. In celebration of a life well lived…

    “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose. For all that we deeply loved becomes a part of us.”

    Helen Keller

  5. Please scroll down to share your favorite John memories, qualities or stories. We will treasure them.

    A celebration of his life will be held on August 3 on Louds Island, and in St. John at a later date.


    Marcia, Erica & Sam / 29 McFarlands Cove Rd., South Bristol, ME 04568

    207-644-8624 / [email protected]

    Valerie Branch says:

    July 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Our family sends its deepest regrets to John’s family and friends. We had the pleasure of meeting him a year ago and were fortunate enough to spend a wonderful day with him on Island Roots exploring the waters around St. John. He was one of those people that after a day with him you felt like you knew him all of your life and would always be your friend. He went out of his way to make sure we enjoyed ourselves on his boat and to make our day a memorable one. He was a special person that crossed my family’s lives and left a lasting impression and for that we are very grateful. My family hopes the memories and the love of this man will sustain his family as they mourn their tragic loss.
    The Branch Family

    Mike McLaughlin says:

    July 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Marcia, What terrible news! I will always cherish the warm hug I got from John the last time I saw him, in early June. It seems now that he knew then he’d have to encapsulate a lifetime of affection in that one embrace.
    May you find strength in the days ahead from the obvious love he had for you.


    Jean Vance says:

    July 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    I met John when he was on my roof putting up a dish. It was like I had known him forever. I had the pleasure of going out with John and Marcia on Island Roots and it was a wonderful experience. He told great stories, he listened and made me feel a part of the Island Roots family. I will miss him and keep his memory in my heart. I was lucky to know him. My best to all of you. Jean

    Sam Chapman says:

    July 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Another firefly gone from the field. Saddened to hear of John’s passing. It is pleasing though to read of his enjoyment of life and the many friends he had. God Bless to all of you.

    I knew John at the Darling center when he had a bushy head of jet black hair and a full pirate’s bushy black beard. When looking at some of his pictures in later life I can recall his hearty laugh.

    For those of you who are use to bathtub crystal clear aqua marine waters, John had experiences at the Darling Center when he was able to walk on sea ice to free a moored skiff. Those of us who experienced that would dream of caribbean waters, John lived his dream.

    Best Regards,

    Sam Chapman
    Carolyn Chapman
    Darling Center
    1966 – 1993

    Debbie says:

    July 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Blue waters…..

    Liz Hicks says:

    July 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    My heart is so sad to hear about Captain John.
    My husband had arranged a special birthday snorkle trip with Carolyn Rodgers , Captain John and Marcia, in 2012. It was truly the highlight of our stay there and I was sooo looking foreward to doing it again.John was so easy,so flexible and willing to get us anywhere we wanted to go.It is a cherished memory that I now hold even dearer.
    My love goes out to his sweet wife, Marcia.
    Liz and David Hicks, Walnut Creek, Ca.

    Laurie and Mark Lind says:

    July 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    We are deeply saddened to learn of Johns passing. John and his family have become a big part of our St.John story. Our memories of John are numerous. From early morning chats about the weather and plans for the day, to sharing stories about lifes more important things. What I noticed about John in those conversations was that he Really listened. Not just in a polite way, but in a very thoughtful way. Even if he was puttering with something he seemed to be really weighing your words. There are two memories that stand out most to me and they both happened on the same day. We were meeting John at the dinghy dock for a day on the water. When he arrived, I told him we had just come from visiting with Sam and Amanda, and had met Haven. The smile that spread across his face…words can not describe. I have that picture in my mind and in my heart. The love he had for his family was evident in that smile. Later that day John introduced us to someone as his “friends” Mark and Laurie. It warmed my heart then, and is now a moment in time we will cherish always.
    To Marcia and family, I am so very sorry. That seems so inadequate, but know that we share in your sorrow.
    Your friends,
    Mark and Laurie

    Capt. charles robbins says:

    July 4, 2013 at 11:50 am

    My sister Trudy introduced us to Island Roots charters and of course we all had a fantastic day with John. My charter service here in Wilmington,n.c. was a good fit for conversation with John’s work there. Not sure you can call it work. As a coast guard officer would say, John was always “squared away”. He told me the story of how he got started with the business in St.John. There’s nothing any better than following a dream and making it work. Living it, is rare.Gods speed.

    Laurie McKinney says:

    July 4, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Oh, what a lovely collection of pictures of John’s beautiful smile, surrounded by those he loved, whether it be family or guests on charter. I am so happy to have been part of his life- Rest in peace my friend…..

    Mack Robbins says:

    July 4, 2013 at 1:42 am

    I was already having a great birthday with my family in St John and then
    my sister surprisies me with a day on the water with Capt John.He truly made my day even better . Sorry to hear of his passing.God Bless

    Bob Ryan says:

    July 4, 2013 at 1:13 am

    I played rock and roll with John. What a great time we had. I think the band name was Red Eye Review or No Excuse..not sure. Let’s see, Bob Lewis, Jack Tukey, me, John and I’ll be darned if I can recall the drummer. Great times with John. I remember the Christmas Cove abode. Sam and Nathaniel being best buds since diapers. Having oysters for the first time when John was with Dodge Cove. When I was in the offshore fishing industry, gill netting, we had John as a rider one trip and he served scallops in the half shell to the crew on board the MIss Angel out of South Bristol.

    Thank you John, for sharing a part of your life and family with me.

    God Bless,


    Bryan says:

    July 4, 2013 at 1:11 am

    I had only talked with John a few times. On the dock in Coral Bay or at one of the BVI bars (I own the Busy Bee, the other former Nauti World Cat in Coral). But it was always an enjoyable conversation. I am sorry to hear of his passing and my deepest condolences to Marcia and family. If I can help in any way, please let me know. [email protected]

    Kevin McKinney says:

    July 3, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    I knew John was anxious to break into the charter game soon after he arrived on STJ. We had known each other since caddying at York Golf Course in the early 60′s.
    I had never let anyone run my charter boat before , but in knowing his demeanor was confident he could handle the task.
    There is a term “owners captain” meaning the type of Captain the owner knew would be respectful of his vessel and bring it back the way he would want it. John was an “owners Captain”…….
    After deciding to get in the game in his own boat, I steered him towards buying Island Roots. Marcia thanked me for that………
    He always would say ” I have the best job in the world”. I am glad I played a small part in these years.

    David Pinardi says:

    July 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    A life well lived …

    My condolences to John’s family and many friends. The world is poorer for his passing.

    – David

    Nancy Danna says:

    July 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    What I’ve always loved about John is that he managed to be warm and have a good sense of humor, while being straight forward and matter of fact at the same time. Without any sharp edges, he was a what you see kinda guy.
    He had the job he was born to do and loved, running Island Roots, meeting people and showing them around the VI and BVI waters, and I had the good luck to get to spend a day with him on his boat.

    but mostly, he was my friend and I miss him already. Love Nancy

    patrick callahan says:

    July 3, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    wow. I’ll miss John’s beautiful wit and handsome face, and his “I can’t believe he did that” stories. What a wonderful man. I’d go to shake his hand and he would push it away and give a hearty hug instead. I’ll miss him but cherish Marcia even more. Thank you both for being such honorable people.

    Karen Vahling says:

    July 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I’ll miss John, one of those people you just felt comfortable around instantly. He had a very open heart and I see his smile and hard work mentioned more than once. He had a wisdom that helped me at times. What a nice family, too! We’re all here for you in Coral Bay when you can come back.

    Mark Nelson says:

    July 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    We didn’t know Captain John well, having only boated with him once on Island Roots last November. But by the end of that day, you could tell that he was a content and happy person, living a full life. He seemed to enjoy his day with us, teasing my daughters about whether or not they had boyfriends (they’re ages 8, 10, and 10), and sharing stories with the adults. I know we all enjoyed our day with him, and were looking forward to many more boating days together.

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to Captain John’s family.

    Marcy Rice says:

    July 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    My husband Jeff and I met John and Marcia when we became the very first renters at the Christmas Cottage. I met Amanda when I worked a month with her at Maho work/exchange program in 2007. I had the opportunity to go out with Captain John with Marcia and friends when renting from them. I am returning to St John in October. I will miss not seeing John’s infectious smile in town. I know he will be greatly missed. Prayers are with the family that you find strength and peace to face the days ahead!

    Diana Hibbard says:

    July 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Such special times I spent employed by John and Marcia at Holly Hill and then moving to Cottage Gardens in Damariscotta. John was a great mentor; his comfortable ways and infectious laugh made every day a joy. Getting to know the Stewart family was very special.
    So sorry his life was cut too short.
    Thoughts are with you all…

    Peter & Susan Rotch says:

    July 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    John will be missed. We first met John at Holly Hill when we bought a John Neville print from Marcia. He hired our son one summer to mow lawns around South Bristol. John’s creativity transformed our back yard from a soggy field into a delightful and useful area, and the stonework in the front yard is the envy of folks on Rutherford Island. Our thoughts to Marcia and the family.

    Caroline Rogers says:

    July 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Many of my happiest memories from the last few years revolve around
    trips with Marcia and John around St. John on Island Roots—often with friends and family. Last December my sister, my brother and his family and I went out with John to Reef Bay—where we got to see a large spotted eagle ray that John had seen on his previous trip. The seas and winds had been high that week but died down for our trip. Afterwards we went to Great Lameshur, Booby Rock and Hurricane Hole. That day was the highlight of everyone’s vacation. And that was just one of many great times with these special people.

    I feel so fortunate that I got to know John. He truly loved what he did.
    My heart goes out to Marcia, Erica, Sam and everyone else in this wonderful family. He will really be missed.


    Michelle/Wes Richards says:

    July 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    We met John on our first trip to STJ, referred to him by Kevin McKinney .. and what a great time we had! Our first trip thru the BVI islands. Over the years, I could always ask him questions about other islands in the Caribbean as we planned future travels. And sadly just missed him on our last trip to STJ at the end of May, he now referring us back to Kevin for our BVI trip. I will miss his posts, pics, and friendship. Cancer took my mother in 3 short mos. after diagnosis. Glad to have known John. Thoughts and love to his family.

    Anne Jacobs says:

    July 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Wow, an amazing collection of photos. 24 years of knowing John. My first real boss, my friend’s father and ultimately, my friend too. I can hear his voice right now clearly in my mind. It has such a distinct sound-perfectly clear in its intention. John appeared his happiest when he was on his boat in the USVI. I have a distinct picture in my head. Just before Christmas 2012. He picked us up in Tortola with Erica and we visited all his favorite spots-having asked John to organize the day. At one point he shooed us all off the boat and into the water (even my sick Mom). Looking back at him, sitting in the boat-observing us all-he looked absolutely, perfectly content. I’ll never forget the way he looked at that moment-life was perfect.

    Candi Schneider says:

    July 3, 2013 at 2:30 am

    We are so sorry to hear of John’s passing. We met him on White Bay back in 2011. I distinctly remember him helping me score a spot in a hammock. Such a kind-hearted man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

    Trudy Robbins says:

    July 3, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Captain John created a very memorable day for me and my family on my brother’s birthday charter 2 years ago. Having known many boat captains while living on St. John our choice of such a kind and knowledgeable guide was perfect. We admired him greatly and felt an immediate attraction to such a fine and interesting man. His love of life and family was so apparent and we hold you Marcia and family in our hearts during this time of sadness and lovingly remembering Captain John Stewart.

    Janine Neville (Canada) says:

    July 3, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I am very sorry to hear of the loss of such a wonderful person. I have many happy memories of visiting John, Marcia, Erica and Sam in Maine when I was a child. John always had a great sense of humor and was very patient with us kids. He always made our family feel welcome. John will be remembered fondly always in our hearts.

    Casey Davidson says:

    July 3, 2013 at 12:52 am

    I love looking through all these pictures of such an incredible life well lived. Too few years but it looks like John packed more in than most people with decades more. I know Captain John through his daughter Erica (Stewie) and have to say he must have been an incredible and kind man to raise such a great daughter. Stewie was a great friend to me all through college and especially post college in DC when my own dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I so appreciate how kind Stewie and Lance have always been to my family, both when my dad was with us, supporting me and my family at his memorial service and for the many years after his passing when she and Lance always kept in touch and helped my mom in DC long after I moved away to Seattle. Stewie and Lance and the kids have been adopted by the McGuires and make it to Thanksgiving at my mom’s house more often than I do! Capt. John lived a wonderful life and I’m very sorry I never made it on to his boat in St. John. My loss for sure! Love to Marcia and Sam and Stewie. I’m thinking of you all. And I’m sorry for yet another wonderful life cut far too short.

    Pat Farrell says:

    July 3, 2013 at 12:26 am

    So sorry to hear this. Our family had an incredible time with John this past December on Island Roots. What an incredible guy! Our prayers are with you and we hope you find strength in a difficult time.

    Denise Woods says:

    July 3, 2013 at 12:23 am

    While I never had the honor of meeting John, I can only say, “what a life!”. And while his life was cut incomprehensively short, it is obvious that he filled his life to the brim and loved well and many, especially his wife and kids. This means the loss is vast and formidable and the landscape and trajectory of many hearts are reshaped forever.
    I mourn with you,
    Denise (friend of Erica and family)

    Don and Anita Weiers says:

    July 2, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Home is the sailor home from the sea!I guess his obituary says it all by those who knew him best.What a legacy he leaves.
    Love and best wishes.

    Phyllis Benton says:

    July 2, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    John will be greatly missed by his friends on St. John. I remember getting to know him and Marcia, talking about the house-building project and island life. Both quickly became a welcome part of the Coral Bay community. My condolences to John’s family, and to his many friends here and in Maine.

    Roberta Sprague says:

    July 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    John was a wonderful friend for many years. I will miss his smile, his friendship, the joy he took in living his life. I believe that people live on in the hearts of those who loved and cherished them.That being so, John may have achieved a kind of immortality. Sending love to all of you who love him.

    Ali ward says:

    July 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I am so saddened and sorry to hear the news. My heart
    and prayers are with the whole Stewart and Baldwin family during this time. John sounds like he was such a wonderful man, and I wish I had gotten the opportunity to find this out in person. If he was anything like his daughter, Erica, who I consider a dear and cherished friend, I know he must have been incredible.
    Much love,
    Ali Ward

    Andrea D says:

    July 2, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I feel lucky to have known John, the father of my dear friend, Erica. Last summer I had the chance to join him in “his element” – by the water on Louds Island and surrounded by his family – it was a great time and I will always remember him there. A genuine smile, an easy laugh, a good story to be told, and full of charm. John’s best traits as I know them – warmth, strong character, generosity, and love of life (and his smile!) continue on through his daughter and my good friend. Sending my love to his entire family.

    Hank Slodden says:

    July 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    My love and thoughts with Capt John’s family.

    St John lost a great character and mentor, like a

    Shooting star we all are ,his star was bright,sparkling

    And full of life!

    Safe travels John

    Capt Hank

    Aimee Pearson says:

    July 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Wow…I am so taken back by this news!Always I will remember John’s smile and dry wit. I take many fond memories of the Cottage Garden days with all the Stewarts. My thoughts are with you. I’m sure John is navigating perfectly in these new waters.

    Carol Brocklesby says:

    July 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about John. You may remember Bill & I from the Old Maine Art Shop and formerly from St. Croix. I can’t believe that Bill also just passed away with a 9 week battle with lung cancer. I know what you are going through. I plan to be in Maine in early Sept. We are in Florida now. My heart goes out to you. Carol

  6. John was an incredible boat captain and a really good person. Our family cannot believe that he is gone. We wish Marcia and their family peace and comfort during thsi terribly sad time.
    The Boggia Family

  7. I’m so sorry to here of your lost. I was doing family genealogy when I came across your family’s group sheet. My husband’s great grandfather (Lloyd Darby, 1831-1898) and his wife (Sarah Cooper, 1834-1909) came from Ohio. They came across the plains in 1859 with the Stanford Party and settled in Solano County. Their grandchild (Elizabeth Stewart Darby) was given the middle name “Stewart” after her ancestor, Captain John Stewart who fought in the Black Hawk War. There is another Captain Stewart but I have no information on him.

    I have looked for Captain John Stewart on the internet and found nothing. I hope to hear from you.


    Maryaline Andreotti
    Wife of Lester Darby Andreotti, nephew of Aunt Bessie.

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