Roy Stuart 1920-2013: TU football star, WWII veteran dies at 92
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Sunday, March 03, 2013
3/03/13 at 5:41 AM
The Fourth of July event in Tulsa was billed as a celebration. But the actual mood - more thoughtful and subdued - can be detected in Roy Stuart's words.
"I want to thank God that I'm here," the young Tulsan observed soberly, according to news reports from 1945.
A former University of Tulsa football star who had played two years professionally, Stuart was home on furlough from World War II, having just two months earlier survived a Japanese kamikaze attack in the Pacific.
Many of his crew mates aboard the USS Bunker Hill had been killed.
So although the war in Europe was over, Stuart's feelings that Fourth in Tulsa were mixed, as they were for the rest of the crowd.
The war in the Pacific - as he and everybody well knew - was still going strong.
And for Stuart, he'd soon be going back to it. When his ship was repaired, he would return to help finish the job.
Roy J. Stuart Jr., a member of the TU Athletic Hall of Fame who after the war enjoyed a long career with Warren Petroleum Co. in Tulsa, died Wednesday. He was 92.
A service is set for 1 p.m. Monday at Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church. Ninde Brookside Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
A native of Shawnee, Stuart was a stocky lineman for TU. Playing both offense and defense as a two-year starter, he was a member of Tulsa's first bowl team in 1941.
From there, he went on to play in the National Football League in 1942-43 for the Cleveland Rams and Detroit Lions.
Stuart stepped away from football, though, when duty called.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the USS Bunker Hill, an aircraft carrier.
The ship would render sterling service during the war, by the end collecting 11 battle stars.
But its service was almost cut short. On May 11, 1945, about 70 miles off the coast of Okinawa, two Japanese suicide planes in close succession plowed into the Bunker Hill.
Stuart, in an interview with the Tulsa Tribune after he returned home, described the scene: "One passageway was burning, and the other was jammed with shipmates escaping. It was the worst sight I ever saw in my life: fellows burning to death, suffocating, suffering from every kind of wound imaginable. I'll never forget it as long as I live, the horrible picture of destruction."
Nearly 350 died in the attack.
Unharmed, Stuart helped pull men from the water.
They put out the fires, and though the ship was badly damaged, it managed to make it to safety.
During his furlough in Tulsa afterward, Stuart stated that, given the enemy's tenacity, he believed there could be no quick end to the war.
But he didn't know then about the atomic bomb. A few weeks later it would bring the conflict to a dramatic conclusion.
Finishing his service in 1946, Stuart played another year in the NFL for the team that became the Buffalo Bills.
Back in Tulsa, he went to work for Warren Petroleum and became district sales manager.
Named to TU's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993, Stuart was a regular at TU home games with his brother, Bobby Jack Stuart, who also starred in football at TU, as well as for Army.
He also kept up with the NFL teams he once played for, and a few years ago attended a Buffalo Bills reunion.
Family members remember Stuart as chivalrous.
"He always opened the door for a lady or stood up when one entered the room," said his nephew, Bob Stuart Jr. of Tulsa. "His favorite goodbye when a woman left was 'Stay sweet.' "
But even the perfect gentleman has a mischievous side.
A fan of limericks, Stuart liked to memorize and share them, "some G-rated, some not. But nothing too over the top," his nephew said. "You knew you were always in for a lot of laughs with him."
Stuart was preceded in death by his wife, Carolyn; a son, Steven; and a sister. Survivors include three children, Scott Stuart, Roy Stuart III and Nancy Stuart; eight grandchildren; and his brother, Bobby Jack Stuart.
Original Print Headline: TU football star, WWII veteran dies at 92
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Roy Stuart: His nephew said Stuart's favorite goodbye to women was "stay sweet."