Barbara J. Stewart, a leading figure in Orange County-based real estate advertising, died April 21 at her Newport Beach home after a long illness. She was 48.
Stewart was president of B. J. Stewart Advertising & Public Relations from its founding in 1976 to early 1989, when it merged with Hubbert Advertising & Public Relations Co. to become Hubbert-Stewart Advertising & Public Relations.
The wife of Orange County real estate sales executive Terry O'Neil, Stewart became one of the few women to head an American Assn. of Advertising Agencies (AAA) accredited firm.
At its peak, B. J. Stewart Advertising employed a full-time staff of 49 and billed for more than $11 million annually.
Stewart often described the agency-client relationship as personal and creative. "It's more like a partnership in the sense of two bodies acting together toward common goals," she once said.
Born in Chicago, Stewart moved to California to study at the Pasadena Playhouse, later attending UCLA, where she majored in marketing and business.
She was active in the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, the Sales & Marketing Council and the Home Builders Council, as well as the Orange County Industrial League.
Stewart received the Outstanding Contribution to Education award from the Orange County Department of Education, chaired the first annual American Lung Assn. Celebrity Waiters' Luncheon in 1986 and was a member of the board of directors of the Search Foundation.
Besides her husband, Stewart is survived by her son, Marc Stewart, stepdaughter Shana O'Neil Hill and stepson Mike O'Neil.