March 28, 1922 – March 5, 2014
The Rev. Donald Stuart, founder of the Night Ministry in San Francisco and its director from 1964 to 1976, died on March 5, 2014, after a stroke, in Claremont, CA. He was 91.
Called by the ecumenical Council of Churches to explore a new ministry to a growing number of "night people" in the city, Stuart left his position as a pastor of the United Church of Christ in Lincoln, Nebraska and moved to San Francisco to minister to a growing number of "street people:" teenage runaways, homeless families, transients, hustlers, alcoholics, prostitutes, drug addicts, and gay refugees.
He served this "congregation" in bars, coffee houses, and street corners for 12 years, offering a shoulder to cry on, an arm to lean on, and an ear to listen. Backing him up on the sidewalks, were Assistant Night Ministers and volunteers answering a telephone "Crisis Line." They sent the ministers to visit individuals in need who were suffering from loneliness, suicidal thoughts, or any kind of darkness-induced desperation. He authored a vivid memoir of his gritty life as Night Minister, I’m Listening As Fast As I Can.
Stuart's legacy in San Francisco, the Night Ministry, has not missed a single night of serving people on the streets from the Tenderloin to the Mission Francisco in 50 years. The Night Ministry continues in operation from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. every night. The Rev. Lyle Beckman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is now Director, assisted by 10 ordained clergy and 45 Crisis Line Counselors who answer the phone at 415-441-0123. Apart from police, fire, and ambulance services, the Night Ministry continues to be the only organization in San Francisco offering face to face counseling and intervention to people in crisis in the middle of the night.
Stuart went on to be the Pastor of St. John's United Church of Christ in San Francisco, serving from 1977 to 1987.
Born on March 28, 1922 in Chicago, IL, he graduated from college at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, IL, near Chicago and from Mission House Seminary in Sheboygan, WI, in 1950. He served two years in the Navy from 1944 to 1946 during which time he was stationed on Treasure Island and fell in love with San Francisco.
He retired to Pilgrim Place in Claremont, CA in 1990 and was active for many years in civic efforts of Claremont including serving on the Human Services Commission, and the Claremont Gang Prevention Task Force.
His survivors include his son, the Rev. Mark Stuart of Hollywood, CA and Kathleen Stuart of South Lake Tahoe, CA and grandchildren Monique Boyer and Andre Boyer. He was predeceased by his wife Eunice in 2008. Memorial services were held at the Claremont United Church of Christ in Claremont, CA, on March 29, at 10:00 a.m. and at St. John's United Church of Christ in San Francisco 501 Laguna Honda Blvd, San Francisco, CA, on April 6 at 2:00 p.m.
The family asks that memorial gifts be made to the Night Ministry, 1031 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 and to Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Road, Claremont, CA, 91711.