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Community mourning child, 12, who inspired

POSTED: March 13, 2013 4:00 a.m.
For the Dawson Community News/

“Soldier Boy” Kenny Stewart, 12, with mom Anna Miles, died Monday night following a nearly five-year long battle with cancer. Services will be at 3 p.m. Friday at Beardens Funeral Home.

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Dawson County's beloved "Soldier Boy" died Monday night after a more than five-year battle with cancer.

Funeral services for 12-year-old Kenneth "Kenny" Webster Stewart III are scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday in the chapel of Bearden Funeral Home. Interment will follow at Moss Memorial Gardens.

Stewart had been battling medulloblastoma since 2008. During that time, a legion of supporters had joined the family's side every step of the way.

Stewart's mother, Anna Miles, said Tuesday that words could not describe the emotions and feelings she has for her family, friends and the community.

"Through Kenneth's purpose here on earth, each and every one of us have been moved and touched through and by the Lord," she said. "I can only hope we can do the same for another. Thank you for all the love and support."

In addition to the friends Stewart, often referred to as "Soldier Boy" for his desire to join the military, made with the local community, his story of strength and perseverance had a far-reaching effect.

Earlier this year, Pam Hamalainen, immediate past president of Dawson County Veterans Affairs, arranged for the boy to receive an honorary military ranking. He was named a lieutenant colonel aide de camp to Gov. Nathan Deal's staff.

With that assignment, Stewart is eligible to receive full military honors at his funeral, according to Hamalainen.

"He always wanted to be a soldier, and now God's army has another soldier today," she said. "He was so strong and he taught us to be strong in the face of adversity.

"If that little boy could make such a huge impact on the community, then we need to carry on with his legacy."

Kim Bennett, a close family friend, called Stewart "the strongest person" she has met.

"He handled himself like a little adult and was always concerned with doing the right thing," she said. "His faith never wavered. I think he'd want people to remember his resilience to never give up, because the journey is more than that."

Stewart was in sixth grade at Dawson County Middle School after attending Robinson Elementary.

"He was always here with a smile and a sense of humor. He was an inspiration to us all," said Mark Merges, principal of the middle school. "He was a good kid and will be missed."

Students had the opportunity to share their special memories of Stewart during homeroom Tuesday morning. They could also talk to counselors if they chose.

"It's really a hard day for everybody in the county," Merges said.

Superintendent Keith Porter said he's never seen a community rally around a single person the way Dawson County did for Stewart.

"To me, it was Kenny's kindness and courage that led people to gravitate to him from the time that he was diagnosed with the tumor. He didn't use his illness to avoid things that he didn't like, rather he took on every challenge and did his best," Porter said.

"Kenny touched all that he came in contact with, but especially the students and faculty at [school]. He was simply an amazing young man that touched my life and many others."

Stewart was aware that doctors had said his future was uncertain, according to Miles. She recalled a difficult conversation she had in which her son described heaven.

"He said it was like sitting at a table with God and there's a huge bowl of potato chips and we eat them all," she said. "Then God snaps his fingers and the potato chips reappear and we keep eating them.

"If we could all think like that, we'd never be afraid of what lies ahead."

A native of Forsyth County, Stewart had lived in Dawsonville since 2008. In addition to his mother, immediate survivors include his father, Kenny Stewart of Cumming, a brother and four grandparents.

A ceremony and moment of reflection will be held in Stewart's honor Saturday at Rock Creek Park's Field 12, which will be dedicated in his honor.

"The field dedication will serve as a lasting reminder of the human kindness and loving spirit of our community," said Lisa Henson, director of Dawson County Parks and Recreation. "Kenny's battle was hard fought, but served a greater purpose to bring about a renewed faith in the loving hearts of our people."

 

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