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Gloria Stewart; Activist and Wife of James Stewart

February 18, 1994|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gloria Stewart, actor James Stewart's wife, who was prominent in animal support groups and other community activities, has died. She was 75.

Mrs. Stewart died Wednesday of lung cancer at her Beverly Hills home. Stewart, to whom she was married for 44 years, their twin daughters and her son from a previous marriage were with her at the time of her death.

"Gloria Stewart was one of our dearest friends for more than 40 years," former President Ronald Reagan said in a statement. "She was a very special woman with a wonderful sense of humor and not an ounce of self-pity."

Mrs. Stewart was active on the boards of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn., Natural History Museum, African Wildlife Foundation and St. John's Medical Center, and was a regular at charity dinners, dances and other events supporting those groups.

Born in Larchmont, N.Y., the daughter of a newsreel executive, the former Gloria Hatrick was educated at private schools and worked briefly as an actress and model. She drove an ambulance during World War II.

She married and divorced Edward B. (Ned) McLean, whose mother, Evelyn Walsh McLean, had owned the Hope diamond.

After moving to Los Angeles with her two small sons, she met Stewart, then Hollywood's favorite bachelor who had vowed he would remain single because "I could never marry just one and be disloyal to all the others." He proposed on his 41st birthday and they were married Aug. 9, 1949.

"He wasn't too difficult to land," Mrs. Stewart later told Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper. "The first time we met, he told funny stories and I laughed. That was how it all started."

Mrs. Stewart died in the only house the couple had shared--a large Tudor the late actor Henry Fonda once described as "comfortable as Jimmy with a splash of style thrown in by Gloria." She raised vegetables on an adjacent lot the Stewarts had bought, demolishing the house on it in favor of a garden.

She shared her husband's interests in skeet shooting, fishing, animals and travel. A fan magazine in 1985 called their partnership "Dream Factory's Outstanding Marriage."

Survivors include her husband, daughters Judy Merrill of San Francisco and Kelly Harcourt of Davis, son Michael McLean of Phoenix, and two grandchildren. Her other son, Marine Lt. Ronald McLean, was killed in the Vietnam War.

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