Obituary of Cassandra Jaelie Stewart
Cassandra Jaelie Stewart
Funny and multi-talented, Cassandra Jaelie Stewart was magical. A deep thinker and spectacular performer, Cassandra’s spirit filled the room. A profoundly empathetic young African American woman, her love of animals was embodied in Cassandra becoming vegan at eleven years old. Born in Fairfax, Virginia to Jeffrey and Anissa Stewart, she moved to Santa Barbara in 2008. She attended Santa Barbara’s Open Alternative School, which she enjoyed, except for the time on a field trip that she almost drowned. The resulting sense of life’s precarity stayed with her for the rest of her life, but also spurred her to become an excellent swimmer, spending a summer in the local Junior Lifeguards program. In 2012, she transferred to Washington Elementary School, where she excelled and developed an unwavering conviction to become a doctor.
An obsessive fan of the Shonda Rhimes series Grey’s Anatomy, Cassandra asked for stethoscopes and CPR dummies for Christmas presents when other children wanted Barbie’s and fire trucks. Later in adolescence she put books on surgical procedures on her wish lists, but also tended to others’ ailments. Over the years she spent hundreds of hours volunteering at Cottage Hospital, at AHA!, and as a student athletic trainer for the football team at Santa Barbara High School. There she excelled academically but also experienced some of the challenges of being a young Black girl at the school. Cassandra loved physics in high school but was discouraged by her white male teacher’s fondness for calling on the boys in the class even when her answers were right and theirs were wrong. With a Black father and a white mother, Cassandra was questioned about her identity, holding to a tightknit group of friends she had formed at Washington Elementary. At the same time, Cassandra emerged as a wonderful cook at Santa Barbara High after taking a course through SBCC School of Culinary Arts Management offered as an elective to high school students. Her growing culinary expertise built on years of experimentation with non-animal based ingredients in her home kitchen to adapt traditional recipes to a vegan diet.
It was also at Washington that Cassandra emerged as a spectacular young singer, performing frequently in local clubs and festivals under the auspices of Lynette Gaona’s Santa Barbara Sings. At Santa Barbara High, Cassandra also emerged as a songwriter, forming the music group Jaelie with high school compatriots Raven O’Donnell and Arlen Abbey that performed her songs https://sbhsforge.com/2021/04/artist-of-the-month-jaelie/. Spending hours perfecting and recording music for their first album with local music producer Alex at Notes for Notes, Jaelie also performed in Nashville, Tennessee. Cassandra was putting the finishing touches on their album at the time of her passing. You can listen to Jaelie on Apple music here https://music.apple.com/us/artist/jaelie/1546341714 .
After graduating with a scholarship from Santa Barbara High in 2021, Cassandra enrolled in UCSB as a pre-med student, but her struggles with mental health led her to take a leave of absence. Having moved recently to Des Moines, Iowa, Cassandra was working in Optimae Life Services, a behavioral mental health facility, tending to the needs of others when she slipped away from this life. Cassandra was the wounded healer, ministering to the needs of others, even as she struggled to heal herself.
Adored daughter, sister, and friend, Cassandra is survived by her parents Anissa and Jeffrey Stewart, her brother Henry Conrad Stewart, and an extended family that includes grandparents Jessie Gheen and her husband Rickie of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Steve Ryan and his wife Jodi Buchanan of Chiefland, Florida, aunts Joyce Lynn Robinson and her daughter Pam of Altadena, California and Kilee Howell of Stuart Drafts, Virginia and many others who heard her infectious laugh and felt her inspiring spirit.
Services will be held at the McDermott-Crockett & Associates at 2020 Chapala St. on October 6, 2023. Public Viewing, Paying Last Respects from 10am-12pm and Celebration of Life 2:30pm-4:30pm.
In lieu of flowers, the family would ask for donations to the Cassandra Stewart Memorial Fund
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