Every so often, I’ll spout positive things to anyone who’ll listen such as “80% of life is about just choosing to show up” and that “there are many paths up the mountain of success (some faster, some slower), so all that matters is that you keep moving forward and don’t be afraid to switch paths if you’re not happy with the one you’re on,” etc., etc., but the bottom line is that I wouldn’t believe in any of that bullshit myself if not for Lori Stewart.
I’d like to take a moment to tell you a little bit about how she changed my life.
- Helped launch eBay Canada and eBay International after founding her own robotic and automation company in the mid-90s .
- Part of the core strategy team for Naheed Nenshi during the 2010 Calgary mayoral campaign .
- Consultant and investor in various start-ups in California, Toronto, Israel and Calgary.
- A patent holder.
- Just a super-awesome person all around!
How did she come into my life? Honestly, I can’t remember the first time I met her. It might have been somewhere during the 2010 mayoral campaign as I had a lot of friends (and soon-to-become friends!) who worked on the campaigns for the various candidates at that time (especially Naheed’s).
Or, it might have been at a social media meetup or three as those were super popular in the city around that time (because if you go to enough things, eventually you’ll run into the same people and at that point, you have a choice to make: Either become friends or settle for being awkward acquaintances for the rest of your lives.).
But for me, I really got to know her when she invited me over for a coffee at the Good Earth Cafe on 11th Street SW in town and asked me to become a Founding Trustee for Awesome Foundation – Calgary in 2011, which she famously decided to start after hearing about the work and creation of Toronto’s chapter during a radio interview on CBC Radio in her car during the middle of her commute (I say “famously” because the official origin story is that she literally performed an illegal U-turn to go back home so that she could immediately file the paperwork to start a chapter in Calgary as soon as she had finished listening to that interview).
Lori showed me in how she lived and what she had managed to accomplish in her life that it doesn’t matter what kind of adversity comes your way; if it isn’t surmountable, then it’s at least bearable, and as long as you keep moving forward, then that’s all that you really need to do and she did that every day of her life.
Just seeing her keep going after beating cancer once is what really hit it home for me:
If she wasn’t going to let a stupid thing like cancer get in her way of doing good things in this city with her life, then what was my excuse for doing nothing with mine?
Through her and the people she had helped over the years, I was able to meet heroes, both big and small. From the community advocate who’s trying to right an injustice, to the young mom trying to raise awareness of how something simple like clean diapers should be a resource that every mother regardless of background should have a right to have access to, to artists of all ages aspiring to make their mark on the world, to movers and shakers like politicians, celebrities and people with more money than they know what to do with trying to affect positive change in their lives and their communities (many of whom may have come from humble backgrounds themselves such as said community advocate, young mother or artist), I’ve been able to meet with and learn from some of the 10-20% of the people who do 80-90% of the cool shit of note in this city and be inspired to try and do the same for myself and others.
Because of her, I’ve also seen first-hand how small actions can add up to big impact and learned that you don’t need much (or to do much!) to be able to affect the world around you in a positive way. It’s a lesson I’ve always kept in mind in everything I’ve done since.
Just by being in my life, she inspired me to do more with it and with my time, giving me the encouragement and some of the opportunities I needed to act on whatever it was that I wanted to do. If I’ve managed to find any kind of success in my life up to this point (debatable, lol), a good majority of it I have to attribute to her and her influence on it.
Directly or indirectly, it’s undeniable that she touched the lives of many in this city, and it’s a shame that more people don’t know what kind of an impact she made on Calgary, the city that she adopted as her home. In fact, I’m sure there’s more hidden/anonymous stuff out there that she’s done that I’m not even aware of too.
She was always good with the snappy quotes (that incidentally, always sounded great in a media interview or an investment pitch), but one of my favorites is one of her more understated ones that she would whip out from time to time and it went something like this:
“When you believe in someone, it’s the biggest support you can give them.”
And through things like starting Awesome Calgary or by investing her own money in things like early stage startups to show her support to the people behind them, she practiced what she preached.
Like with many of the people I met back in those days when I used to be more active in the community, I lost contact towards the end, but if I had one more chance to speak with her in person, this is what I would say:
Thanks for believing in me and for giving me a chance to do something meaningful with my life, Lori. You have no idea how much you changed my life for the better and even though it was for far too short a time, I am so, so grateful that you were in it. RIP.
As for me, I’d like to pull up another quote of hers, this time from her Facebook page, which is yet another thing she advocated for in her life, both in her words, but most importantly, with her actions:
“Cherish life and do all you can to help others.”
For however much time I have left in this world myself, I’ll try my best to pay it forward too, Lori. And thanks again for everything you’ve done for me; I really appreciate it.
Lori Stewart (née Bell) of Calgary, Alberta passed away on Friday, August 30, 2019 at the age of 56 years.
Lori is survived by her mother, Marion Bell; her brothers, Rick, Michael (Cara Ong), and Robert (Kelli) Bell; nieces, Emily and Caitlyn Bell; and nephews, Mitchell, Joshua, and Devin Bell.
Lori was predeceased by her father William Bell.
She will be dearly missed by her family and friends.Lori Stewart, 1963-2019