Earthpeace Monument | Pilgrim Stories - Don Stuart
A contemporary Yule marble sculpture symbolizing the dove nestling a bronze globe inscribed with Peace in 45 languages recognizing generations of lives lived in service to promote peace in the US and around the world
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Don Stuart

San Francisco’s First Night Minister

Bringing Peace in the Tenderloin

Reverend Don Stuart helped thousands of “hopeless persons to find a new image and a new life”.  One prostitute spoke for many when she said: “He saved my life. I thought there was no use. Nothing to live for. He made me see that I  have everything to live for.”

The Reverend Donald Stuart was touched by the wasted lives of persons he saw in the “Tenderloin District” of San Francisco.  At night, he kept seeing their faces and couldn’t sleep. Their lives were consumed by alcohol, drugs, fear, suicide.  They were plagued with spiritual, emotional and problems and destitute or dis-functional families.  He was convicted to do something about it.  He said he was compelled to help them see that they were not alone. With the blessing of his church, he started walking among these creatures he cared so much for. Every night as their “Night Minister” he could be seen and soon gained their respect.  He wore a cleric collar and with a warm smile and a contagious sense of humor, he frequented the bars and the streets from Ten PM to Six AM every single night.  His wife partnered with him by letting him sleep during the day while she did all the work of caring for their home.  For twelve years, he reached out to counsel with those who felt helpless.  Don kept careful records and ended up recording the Seventeen Thousand Individuals who were in serious need of the counsel and guidance and affirmation he gave them.  Not recorded were the thousands more who considered him friend and were encouraged by his presence and felt lighter because of his humor.  The “San Francisco Night Minister” still continues its efforts to bring Peace to those who have lost it.

“He saved my life. I thought there was no use. Nothing to live for. He made me see that I have everything to live for.”

Even in his last days of illness, Don was there for those around him.  Peter Norton, a young man studying for the ministry, got to know him when he visited his grandparents at Pilgrim Place.  Once, when they had talked for a long time, Don called them and told them not to worry, that he and Peter were having a great time drinking beer.  Then, he laughed and said…” root beer, that is”.

The last time Peter visited him, he was asleep in the middle of the day.  But, he woke and insisted the nurse help him dress and get in a wheel chair.  He directed Peter to push him to the little chapel in the Health Services Center.  And there they had a quiet but animated talk.  At the end, Don gave him a blessing and prayed for him.  He commissioned him to carry on the work of caring for others, especially those who desperately needed peace… Peter went back to Perkins School of Theology where he lived in Bonhoeffer House with three other students. Their ministry: outreach to the homeless whom they welcomed into their house once a week for a meal which they prepared and ate together around the table.

– by Constance Waddell

Don Stuart