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Battle continues for remains of WTC victim

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

The remains of Belfast-born World Trade Center victim Michael Stewart have remained in Campbell’s Funeral Home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side as uncertainty continues over who will receive his body. Stewart’s ex-wife, Diana, has asserted her right as next of kin, which has been disputed in court by other family members.

He is survived by his ex-wife and two sons, Franco, 14, and Eamon, 11. The couple divorced in 1998. He is also survived by his mother in Ballyclare, Co. Antrim, and two sisters in Belfast, as well as a brother.

Most recently, Stewart lived in Brooklyn with his partner, Kristen Galusha-Wild, and their 2-year-old son, Liam.

Stewart’s ex-wife has said that she wants to bury his body in New Jersey, in accordance with his spoken request while he was still alive, and that attempts have been made to keep her in the dark by Stewart’s family in Northern Ireland.

But his Northern Irish family and his partner in Brooklyn have said that they have agreed to cremate the body and separate his ash into three urns, one for his family, one for his ex-wife and their two sons, and one for his partner

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Stewart, who was 42, was born in Belfast. He immigrated to the United States in 1981 and was employed in banking and finance over the years, most recently with Carr Futures on the 92nd floor of 1 World Trade Center.

Stewart’s sister Janet, in Northern Ireland, said that her family had tried repeatedly to contact Diana Stewart, and had sent birthday money to her sons, but that it had been returned to them.

Most recently, she said, the family had tried to come to an agreement about the body and had concluded, with Galusha-Wild, that cremation was the most appropriate option.

“That way we can deal with the remains and make three urns,” she said. “We did not want to bury him in Northern Ireland,” she added, in response to Diana Stewart’s claim that the family wanted to bury Michael Stewart in Northern Ireland.

“Michael visited Ireland maybe once a year with the kids,” she said. “He was very happy with Kristen in Brooklyn, he had fun with her and he told me that he intended to marry her.”

“This is all very stressful, as you can imagine.”

Stewart was a passionate rugby player who quickly joined the Old Blue rugby club after he arrived in New York, and played wing forward from 1981-89.

Many people were touched by his life, and wrote tributes to him on the Internet at the New York Times’ “Portrait of Grief” obituary for Stewart.

The case of Stewart’s body illustrates some of the complexities, legal and otherwise, that some Sept. 11 victims’ families have had to face.

Irish-born attorney Eamonn Dornan noted, “It’s a sad story, and it illustrates how important it can be for people to make a will.”

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