Community leader, base supporter receives award

Randy Harris, Clovis banker and member of Clovis Committee of Fifty, Ernest “Doc” Stewart, Lt. Gen. William Fraser, Air Combat Command vice commander and Barret Stewart, grandson of Doc Stewart gather round as Mr. Stewart

Melanie Salazar

When Ernest “Doc” Stewart saw Cannon in the 50s, the base looked a little different.
“The officers lived where the static display is now,” he said. “There were World War II hangers all over and there were little quarters for the Airmen.”
Mr. Stewart served as a pharmacist in the Navy during World War II, where he met his wife Martha, a former Navy lieutenant and obstetric nurse. Mr. Stewart served in the Pacific for a year and a half of his five-year tour from December 1940 to January 1946.
Today, there are new dorms at Cannon, a new control tower, clinic and fire station. A four-lane highway connects Clovis to the base and a highway overpass leads drivers to the main gate without having to cross the train tracks.
From nearby, Mr. Stewart watched these improvements and modernizations with a smile, as the civic leader had pushed for many of them in his years on the Clovis Committee of Fifty (Military Affairs) and Chamber of Commerce.
These contributions and a laundry list of others earned Mr. Stewart the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award.
The Fishers, partners in a prominent New York real estate corporation, established programs and foundations to assist military families across the country. These programs reflected the Fishers’ personal qualities such as “patriotism, generosity and selfless dedication to improving the quality of life of the members of the Armed Forces of the United States,” which were directly incorporated into the criteria for the award.
In 1996, the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force approved the establishment of this award on a continuing basis. Mr. Stewart won at the ACC level, and went on to receive the honor Air Force wide for 2005. He is currently in the running for the Department of Defense level award. Besides backing projects whose results would be seen around the base, Mr. Stewart has also supported Cannon in some not-so-obvious ways.
In the 1960s, he welcomed an Airman into his home after he had promised the young man’s father that he would look out for him while he was stationed at Cannon. “We took a liking to him and we just opened our home,” he said. “He just became part of the family.” No stranger to military awards, Mr. Stewart has also been named an honorary Air Force Thunderbird, as well as an honorary chief master sergeant—the first civilian in Clovis to earn that title.
Despite all the recognition, Mr. Stewart said he was surprised to win the Humanitarian Award, since his efforts in improving Cannon seemed so natural.
“Everything I’ve done, I’ve done in complete happiness, so it was a complete surprise,” he said.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have done a great deal more than I have.”
His decorated office tells a different story though, as the white on the four walls around him is barely distinguishable behind the plaques, awards and signed photos of former Cannon commanders that decorate the room. Next to them hang photos of his sons, one a retired Air Force brigadier general, and the other a retired army colonel and Vietnam veteran.
The note in a card from ACC Commander Gen. Ronald Keys, sent after Mr. Stewart won at the ACC level, echoed the sentiments of almost everyone whose messages remained on the walls. “Your selfless contribution in both time and resources to Cannon Air Force Base over the past 45 years has been simply amazing.”
While Mr. Stewart has a lot to show for his years of dedication, he said the best part of his experiences isn’t something tangible. “Through the years, we’ve made friendships that go on and on,” he said.
“Establishing long-lasting friendships has been a heartfelt enjoyment to me since 1955.”