Earlier this month, agriculture lost one of its best goodwill ambassadors, and for those of us in the ag media business, we lost a dear friend. Stewart Doan, senior editor for Agri-Pulse Communications, was an Arkansas farm broadcaster who seemed to know everybody connected with agriculture. He was everywhere and traveled on a fast track covering industry meetings and spending at least two weeks out of every four in Washington.
Even as I sit here writing this article, I still find it hard to believe that my friend of 27 years isn’t here anymore. When he passed away, it was hard for many of us to believe. He seemed to have an unlimited amount of energy and enthusiasm. Long hours and deadlines didn’t seem to faze Stewart. When I first joined the National Cotton Council’s Communications Department in 1985, he was one of the first media friends I cultivated in those days, along with farm broadcasters John Winfield of the Mississippi Network and Don Molino of the Louisiana AgriNews Network. During 13 years at the NCC and for the past 13 years at Cotton Farming magazine, the four of us traveled to numerous meetings, attended field days and took many shuttle bus trips. I even ran into Stewart one summer in Destin, Fla., when he and his wife and two daughters were on vacation. When he found out that I was in the vicinity, we all got together for dinner at the Lighthouse Restaurant. And what did we talk about during dinner – much to the chagrin of his wife Leslie? Kentucky basketball and politics! What else could we discuss? That was always the topic of conversation.
Stewart was a generous person who was willing to share information about any agricultural issue. He would call his media friends at any time of the day or night to talk about an ag issue or political race. But, as I mentioned earlier, Stewart couldn’t finish any conversation without mentioning Kentucky basketball, his wife, his daughters’ school activities, the family farm or his golf game. As much as he loved ag issues and politics, nothing made him prouder than talking about his wife Leslie and daughters Lauren and Sara. They were the most important part of his life. This past January Stewart took the entire family to Hawaii where he was a speaker at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting. It was early evening in Memphis, but Stewart called to let me know that he was sitting poolside with the family at a Honolulu hotel in 85-degree weather. He loved rubbing it in whenever he could. It was good-natured fun, and it was always that way when you were around Stewart.
We are never prepared to lose close friends. But life can be very unpredictable and fragile, and when we least expect it, somebody very special is suddenly gone. That is how many of us feel today. We’re thankful for all of those wonderful experiences we had with Stewart and how much he meant to us, but there is also a big void now in the ag media family.
No matter how much time goes by and wherever our different paths take us, we’ll never forget the irrepressible reporter who wore the navy blazer, dark horn-rimmed glasses, white shirt and blue jeans – regardless of the occasion.
Stewart Doan…..an outstanding reporter, husband and father – and a friend we’ll always miss.