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A Foley Love Story

22 Jun 2017

written by Croma

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A Foley Love Story

Text & additional photos by Tim Borland

Albert and Denise Stewart have shared their lives together for well over 40 years. The couple’s unique story is distinctly local, and a sign of times past. Husband and grandfather Albert “AJ” grew up as the son of a farmer from the city of Foley. Unlike many children in modern times, he was expected to arise early before the sun rose to complete chores for his parents prior to classes. Once he grew older, he tackled more complicated tasks for the family business such as running a crop dusting plane to service agriculturalists nearby.IMG_4960

Denise was also born a Foley resident. From a very young age, she knew that AJ was the man  for her – the lovers shared their first innocent kiss when they met in kindergarten. As they became adults, the soul mates witnessed the shocking changes in scenery the Southern Gulf Coast has undergone. During their youth, there were absolutely no condos, just miles and miles of pristine beaches with natural sea oats and rich wild life. So desolate was the shoreline that AJ could entertain his future bride by flying Denise around in his father’s crop duster and landing directly on the beach.

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The pilot bug quickly spread from AJ to his descendants. After attending a Pensacola Blue Angels air show with “pop pop” at the young age of 5, his grandson became inspired to serve his country in the U.S. Navy. AJ, who is a also licensed pilot, flew his grandson around the Gulf. Now a ranking combat pilot, Stewart’s progeny is currently deployed in active duty in Afghanistan.

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AJ’s career took a very different direction as an adult, as he developed a lucrative construction business. While many Mobilian’s have not heard of AJ Stewart, his work can be seen in various communities throughout the Gulf Coast. A builder of golf courses, AJ spent many years perfecting his craft. By the time golf legend Arnold Palmer declared that AJ was the best golf shaper in the business, the latter had contributed work to over 400 clubs across the United States. A favorite project of AJ’s is Gulf Links Golf Center, located in his hometown of Foley, which AJ designed and built and himself.

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Gulf Links Golf Center

The husband and wife share many unique experiences. They attended the original Woodstock in 1969, meeting Janis Joplin offstage and witnessing the legendary career-making set by Satana. Additionally, as Denise was in the hospital battling cancer and kidney disease she had the fortuitous experience of bumping into Elton John who was recovering in the same hospital. Elton John sang a special version of “Tiny Dancer” in the hospital specifically for Denise as that had been her nickname for many years.

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 The distinctive experiences of the duo are equaled by the harrowing tribulations they have experienced in recent times. The seniors have endured cancer, surgery, robbery, death, and forced displacement. Despite AJ’s prosperous company and Denise’s positive reputation as an actively involved criminal defense lawyer, their nest egg saved for old age has been completely depleted due to catastrophic health problems leaving the twosome with no savings.

“I’m not afraid of dying at all because I know what kind of person I’ve been. I know where I’m going. But I am not ready to leave because I am taking care of my husband. I still have a lot of things I want to accomplish and do before I leave this life,” Denise shares.

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The pair lost the home which Denise’s father built in 1962 five years ago, which was only the beginning of their struggles. Shortly afterward, AJ suffered his first heart attack. His health has only worsened, with doctors removing a mass from his lung. Denise struggled with health problems as well, including kidney disease, heart problems, and multiple cancers. Their current situation has escalated to the point that she is in danger of stage 4 leukemia, but they are unable to afford the treatments which could lengthen her life. Denise’s mother passed away in 2016 while living with her daughter through distress; due to financial instability her mother does not currently have a named tombstone on the matriarch’s final resting place. The consorts were also the victim of a vicious hit and run car robbery by drug addicts, which left them on the side of the road in desperation with multiple injuries. In spite of support from their pastor and church congregation, it will be impossible for the duplet to get into a home and become self sufficient again without a leg up from donations while they recover from their grevious injuries.

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The Foley companions have started a Go Fund Me campaign dubbed “A little help from our friends” in order to get to a position where they can receive treatment and become financially stable once again. AJ has worked hard labor his entire life and is anxious to get back to his occupation so he can provide for the people he loves most. The only thing stopping him from returning to his successful career is his recent surgery – doctors have advised that if AJ rushes back to work too quickly he will risk a collapsed lung and end up being hospitalized again.

“I look forward to my health recovery so I can get back to work,” AJ insists.

To help this Foley family recover from their landslide of unfortunate circumstances, please visit their Go Fund Me account linked below and give back to those who have contributed so much to the aesthetics of the regional area. A donation of any amount, even $5 or $20 will go a long way to helping this family get back on their feet.

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https://www.gofundme.com/alittlehelpfromourfriends


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