Franklin Heights, People

“I kind of followed my mother here”

This story is part of a series focusing on the 30th Street Industrial & Economic Corridor.

Robert Stewart stands outside his garage on a dead-end street in Franklin Heights.

Steward says he ended up in Milwaukee because of family and the chance to get a good job. “I kind of followed my mother here – she lived up here; I was livin’ in Missouri. [The city] seemed like it had good opportunities back then.”

“[There weren’t] a lot of job opportunities where I was staying, in a small town, 6,000 people. And I’m a painter, by trade; I went to Job Corps in ’69 and there wasn’t any painting jobs down there at the time. So, I ended up welding. So, I welded [at] a shipyard a few years, moved up here, welded here for a few years and I finally got into my apprenticeship. I finished my apprenticeship, became a journeyman around about ’80…and I worked for a few union contractors around here.”

While the work was decent, Stewart just couldn’t do it any more. “I got tired of welding cause it was too much smoke for me, you know, so tried to get back into the painting thing,” he says. “Finally got back into painting – I went to work for Milwaukee County and I worked there for 24 years. I became a supervisor; I was a supervisor for about 15 years, I did some construction managing…and I retired two years ago.”

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Stewart went on to talk about his family. He’s one of 12 and, though they aren’t in the same place, the siblings are still close. “I got ‘em in Texas, I got ‘em in New York, I still got a sister and two brothers in Missouri.”

When asked about his mother, though, Stewart finds it hard to respond. “She passed. She was great,” he says, tears in his eyes. “Well, I don’t want to talk…”

But, after a moment, before disappearing through the garage door, he turns around. “She was a strong woman,” says Stewart. “My daddy, too.”

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