There were two things I knew I’d find when walking into my favorite brick and mortar cigar shop…a large selection of cigars and Stewart Dease.
Norm from Cheers had nothing on ol Stew. From the time the door was unlocked in the morning until the very last customers rang up their purchases late in the afternoon, those of us that frequented the shop knew that one of the TV’s would be claimed and that the corner seat near the humidor would be occupied.
For the last 4-5 years, I had the pleasure of sitting right next to Stew as I’d come in every other day on my lunch breaks. We’d talk about everything and nothing at all at the same time. After all, that’s what you talk about at the cigar shop, right? When I didn’t see Stew there, I’d hold his seat for him because I knew that unless he was out of town, he’d come walking in the door sooner rather than later. Even when he moved away for a few months with a new job, we typically wouldn’t use that chair because we didn’t want that to be the day Stew would walk in and we’d need to move our stuff.
Stew was the most mild-mannered and friendliest guy that you’d ever meet. If someone happened to be in his spot, he’d peacefully sit in a nearby seat with his cigar and wait for them to finish theirs and leave before he’d reclaim his throne. It was the funniest thing to watch because he just didn’t look right in any other seat.
Enjoying cigars alongside Stew was a pleasure, just like hearing the passion in his voice when he talked Alabama football. I even learned to enjoy watching bad, old movies at the shop (instead of Sports Center) because Stew always had the remote…and DVD player. Whenever he’d go to the bathroom, I’d change the channel…then change it back when I heard him coming down the hall. I didn’t mind any of it…because it was Stew…and because it was Stew, it was ok.
When I found out Stew had passed away at the end of May, I stood dazed in the humidor and things literally got blurry. I lost my train of thought and it took me a second to really process what I had just been told. I realized that going forward I wouldn’t hear that voice next to me saying, “Whatcha smokin’? Yeah, that’s a good cigar!” I realized that I’d get to watch more Sports Center now while at the shop, but at an extreme cost.
Now whenever I sit in my favorite shop and light my cigar, it’ll be about more than just smoking, relaxing and talking about something/nothing, it’ll be about remembering and honoring a good man, Stewart “Stew” Dease…my cigar shop buddy.