Steeplechase owner Nina Gill Stewart dies at 71

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Nina Gill Stewart, 71, passed away peacefully on June 26, surrounded by her children Sanna, Kathy and Stewart. (Obituary written by Liz Merritt Strawbridge and family).

Nina Gill was born March 18, 1941 in Baltimore, Md. to Ann Cochran and Redmond Cunningham Stewart, Jr. She attended Garrison Forest School in Baltimore where a recently discovered report card deemed her efforts to be “E for Excellent.” She went on to Foxcroft School in Virginia where she earned the esteemed nickname “Giddy Gill” from her friends for being an easy giggle. She completed her education at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, interestingly, the horse capital of the Northeast. It soon became clear that she preferred the three-rail fence to the classroom. She became the Master of the Hunt for Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, her great uncle’s pack. Nina fell head-over-heels in love with timber racing. Haffaday was her first experience with timber, owned by her father Redmond Stewart and ridden by her then husband Paddy Neilson. Remarkably, all of her children won the Maryland Hunt Cup, “one of the three best sporting events of all time,” says son, Stewart Strawbridge.

Nina was a ferocious competitor. She was a national tennis champion in class 4.0 USTA. Despite her generous understanding of the term “mulligan,” she managed to be a top golfer at the Northeast Harbor and Wilmington Country Clubs. She reached record-breaking vertical mileage while helicopter skiing in British Columbia. In fact, just this past winter, she earned her 6 millionth-foot suit, skiing out in the Selkirk range.  Although in her 7th decade, she was often confused as a teenage powder hound.

Nina spent her summers in Northeast Harbor, Maine where she captained her beloved Bugaboo. In the Somes Sound boating circles, she was known for navigating through thick fog with an upside-down GPS system, mooning the coastguard for kicks, and skinny-dipping in broad daylight in 40-degree water. She enjoyed overnighting on islands off the coast of Acadia, both legally and illegally.

Nina Gill will be remembered for her passion for adventure. She brought excitement and joy to all those who were lucky enough to be touched by her glowing warmth.  The most important things to her were her children and her friends to whom she was fiercely loyal.

Nina is survived by three children: Katherine Neilson of Unionville, PA and children, Skylar, Nina and Max McKenna; Sanna Hendriks and husband Ricky of Coatesville, PA and their children, Liza, McLane, Parker and Natalie Hendriks; and Redmond Stewart and wife Liz of South Portland, ME and their children, Cody and Redmond Sage Strawbridge. She is also survived by her sisters Ann Stewart of Cockeysville, MD and Kathy Ingalls of Cleveland, Ohio. She was pre-deceased by her brother, Redmond Cunningham Stewart III.

Her ashes will be scattered at the places she loved most in this world: the pond by her home in Pennsylvania, Somes Sound in Northeast Harbor, and on top of the Selkirk range in British Columbia.

A celebration in her honor will be held on Sunday, July 1 at 11 a.m., down by the pond at 196 Greenlawn Road, Cochranville, Pa.