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Author Topic: "We miss them, but we will still climb mountains." funeral of Elbrus climbers  (Read 9348 times)


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Climbers' family asks 'Why?'
Hundreds pay tribute at service
Peter Scott  For the Calgary Herald
Sunday, July 27, 2003

Academics, athletics and spirituality were three hallmarks celebrated Saturday at a memorial service for Gerry and Brian Stewart, two climbers from Lethbridge lost last month on a Russian mountain.

Close to 1,200 people turned out to remember the two brothers, who were last seen June 22 as they descended Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. Their disappearance in a sudden storm, the two-week search joined by their brothers James and David and uncle Bob Leishman, and the subsequent acceptance they would not be found alive has taken those who knew them on an emotional journey.

"It's been a roller-coaster ride, not only for us as a family, but the community as a whole," said David, eldest of five Stewart children who, with sister Barbara Dalziel and parents Anne and Cal, are part of a close-knit clan well-known and respected for their accomplishments and service in the city.

Gerry, 29, and Brian, 25, were experienced athletes and hikers. Gerry had finished climbing all the peaks in Waterton Lakes National Park, with the final two done in May. Mount Elbrus is not considered a technical climb and, under normal circumstances, was well within the Stewarts' capabilities.

At home, they excelled at various sports, but had made their marks on the track. Brian reigned as the 2003 Canada West University champion in the 1,000 metres. Gerry was a fierce cross-country competitor.

Both come from a strong medical family. Father Cal is a long-time Lethbridge family physician, now joined by David in his practice. James is attending medical school.

After completing his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C, Gerry graduated from the University of Calgary medical school in 2000. After three years of residency at the University of Alberta, he was to begin specializing in nephrology (kidney disease) this month.

Brian completed his mission in Poland and finished on the dean's honour role in this, his second year of medical school at the U of A. Both were Academic All-Canadians.

"We have asked a lot of 'why?' questions in the last month," said David. "Why did they go there? Why did they climb without a guide? Why did the storm come up? Why did the Heavenly Father have to take two such good young men? Several times a day our hearts break. But we are coming to peace with this."

David said much of his own peace has come from joining the search in Russia. He now knows his brothers were attracted to the beauty of Mount Elbrus and knows he, too, would have climbed it without a guide.

"They were good mountaineers. They did not survive. The storm came to take them." He said despite all the prayers for their safe return, "sometimes God has to say, 'No.' "

Barbara spoke of her youngest brother as a young man who did not believe in quitting. She said Brian, who as a child broke five bones in five separate activities, had been so badly beaten during his mission in Poland that German doctors had to use steel plates to repair his face. But he returned to finish his two-year stint in Warsaw.

"He sought an acceptance from a higher power and from himself," she said.

In remembering Gerry, James said his true love of family and friends matched his zeal for mountain climbing. In one year, he scaled 40 peaks, conquering at least one in every month of the year.

Neither Jerry nor Brian had married.

The family plans to start a trust fund, to which the public may donate, to pay for scholarships at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute and the U of A -- schools both men attended. And the Stewarts, said David, will continue to embrace the outdoors.

"We miss them, but we will still climb mountains."

Addition from 7summits:
The family use(d) the following website for information and contact:
"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
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