02 Jul Senior in Action – Frankie Stewart
Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.
Senior in Action – Frankie Stewart
Frankie is delighted to claim the title of “oldest employee” in the City of Carson. At age 84, she works part-time at the Carson Community Center’s front desk, five days a week. And this is her SECOND career. She retired in 1995 as an administrator with Kaiser Permanente after 31 ½ years, and withdrew her pension funds to invest in the stock market, only to see the market plummet, taking her retirement nest egg. She and her second husband Colonel Joe Weems were able to live comfortably enough, but when he died in 2010, Frankie said, “I prayed and asked God for a job. This position in Carson came available. I wasn’t sure I could support myself, but Luke 16:10 says ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.’ And I have received two promotions since then!”
Frankie was known as a dynamo in Carson before she landed the job at the Community Center. She was a member of the Carson Women’s Club, and the Carson Kiwanis Club. The Boys & Girls Club in Carson awarded Frankie their Distinguished Service Award in 2011 when she was Associate Board Member. She shared her ideas on the City of Carson’s Senior Advisory Commission, and provided annual commentary for the Carson Chamber of Commerce Fashion Show. For several years, she chaired activities for cancer survivors at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Carson.
So…are you curious to learn how this Tennessee girl became a California celebrity and award-winning community leader? As a young woman raised in Paris, TN, Frankie excelled in school and was High School valedictorian. She claims she attended Tuskegee University to “get a husband” where she successfully snagged Leon Stewart, a paratrooper with the U.S. Army 92nd Airborne. In 1957, Frankie and Leon moved to California from Alabama and bought a house in Compton. Together, they raised four sons: Lonnie, Lebaron, Leon and LeJon.
LeJon is the culprit who pushed Frankie into national notoriety. He saw an article about the Ms. Senior America pageant and encouraged Frankie to enter. She insisted she was NOT interested in beauty pageants. LeJon was persistent, and when Frankie turned 60, he called the Director for an application, telling Frankie, “If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me.” She sang Let Me Entertain You for the talent portion of the judging – and WON! Next, she competed in the state competition, and WON Ms. Senior America in California. On to nationals in Biloxi, Mississippi, where 41 states were represented. Frankie was one of six black contestants, and she WON the national title. Her reign as Ms. Senior America was “magical.” Essence magazine published a coffee table book of feature articles with movie stars, singers, and celebrities including Ms. Senior America Frankie Stewart.
Does Frankie enjoy cooking? No, she claims she is “cooked out” after feeding her family of 5 for so many years. However, LeJon can be persistent so she’ll occasionally cook his favorite meal of pork chops in gravy with buttery mashed potatoes and fried apples. Frankie loves traveling to Las Vegas for food and fashions. But her favorite pastime at home is reading a good mystery or thriller. “I have a complete leather-bound set of Agatha Christie,” she says. Frankie is still wowing folks with her energetic personality. She walks 1 ½ miles every day except Sunday. The All Peoples’ Christian Church is her passion on Sundays, where she leads songs every other month. Frankie teaches a class at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Aging Gracefully and Gratefully. Frankie has received countless awards for her community volunteerism; a testament to this vivacious woman who perfected the art of aging gracefully.