Donna Marie Dooley Stewart 1931—2023
As children grow and mature, they may dream of where their life’s journey will take them, but they can’t imagine the paths they eventually will take to reach their destiny. How was Donna Marie Dooley to know she would become the wife of a man who would be selected as the spiritual and administrative leader in her denomination, the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC)?
Donna began her life’s journey on June 8, 1931, in Moneta, Virginia, as the only child of John Brice and Adreene Pauline (Shank) Dooley. Her earthly sojourn ended and she entered heaven on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at age 91.
When she was 17, Donna made the most important decision of her life: she gave her heart to Christ at the 1948 Piedmont Camp Meeting. That surrender surely set her on the course of fulfilling her destiny as a child of God.
In preparation for Christian ministry, Donna attended Holmes Bible College in Greenville, South Carolina. While there, she met and fell in love with Leon Otto Stewart, a young ministerial student from Alabama. They were married on September 5, 1952.
Donna earned a Bachelor’s degree in Theology from Holmes. Later, she returned to college and was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Southern Nazarene University (SNU), Bethany, Oklahoma, and a Master of Education in Sociology from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), Edmond, Oklahoma.
Soon after their graduation from Holmes, the Stewarts accepted the pastorate of a church in the Alabama Conference; however, it didn’t take long for the conference and general church to recognize and tap the management skills and spiritual zeal of this young couple. Their leadership roles ran concurrently. While Leon served as conference superintendent in Alabama, Donna led as president of the Alabama Conference Woman’s Auxiliary (WA). She also served on the General WA Board for 20 years (1965-1985), and was elected to two, four-year terms as vice president of that ministry (1977-1985).
Even with impaired vision, Leon Stewart was selected as assistant general superintendent of the IPHC in 1969. Donna worked alongside him as his secretary and personal assistant until 1981, when he was elected as the denomination’s eleventh General Superintendent. “Miss Donna,” as she was known affectionately, was appointed as director of two denominational ministries: Minister’s Wives Fellowship and Home and Family Life. She served eight years in these roles simultaneously. For six years (1983-1989), she was a member of the National Association of Evangelical’s Task Force on the Family.
Through the years, Donna Stewart’s byline appeared in numerous publications, including IPHC Sunday school curriculum, The Helping Hand, The Pentecostal Holiness Advocate, and numerous other church publications. She served as associate editor of Witness magazine from 1976 until 1981. She was also a popular and articulate speaker at local and international women’s gatherings, family life seminars, overseas missionary retreats, graduations and other events.
Regardless of the twists and turns in Donna Stewart’s journey, she maneuvered each with efficiency, grace, and dignity. Above all, however, she claimed her most treasured roles were those of wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. The Stewarts have two daughters, Dianne Marie and Karen Denise, two granddaughters, Karen Marie and Lara Noel, and three great grandsons, Ben, Eli, and Ash.
Presiding Bishop A. D. Beacham, Jr., remembers Donna Stewart’s anointed and gracious leadership: “Mrs. Donna Stewart represented the IPHC with wisdom, dignity, and excellence throughout her life,” he says, “and especially during the eight years she served as the First Lady of the church. She enhanced her natural leadership abilities with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. A gracious and engaging wife, mother, grandmother, Sister Stewart was an example to thousands of IPHC women around the globe. Our prayers are with her beloved husband and family.”
Donna Marie Dooley Stewart remained faithful to her Lord and to her life motto: “Live for Christ and Others.”
Visitation is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, with the funeral following at 10 a.m. Both the visitation and the memorial service will be held at Johnson Quimby Funeral Home, 1322 South Main Street, Atmore, Alabama 36502, (251) 368-2176. Interment will follow at Oak Hill Cemetery, Atmore.
–Shirley G. Spencer