Stewart Mark Birbrower, advertising executive, commercial film director and artist, died on Saturday, June 14 in Ventura, California after a brief illness. He was 78.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sylvia, his four children, Amy and her spouse Michael, Doug and his spouse Tena, Wendy and her spouse Chris, and Cliff and his spouse Kim; his brother Barry, his sister Judy, and his nine grandchildren, Gabriel, Jordan, Rebecca, Sydney, Owen, Sophie, Helena, Phoebe and Isaac.
Stew was born September 9, 1935, in Peekskill, New York to Rose and Solomon Birbrower, both immigrants from Eastern Europe. He attended Peekskill High School where he played football, basketball and baseball. On weekends, he often helped his father, who owned The Brown Street Hat Factory, making ladies’ hats. He attended Syracuse University where he played shortstop on the varsity baseball team.
Shortly after graduation in 1958 with a degree in Fine Arts, Stew married his high school sweetheart, Sylvia Soskel, and a year later, with a baby on the way, he decided to pursue an opportunity in advertising. Stew liked to tell the story that he was hired for his first job in advertising not for his art degree, but to organize and captain the company softball team.
Stew completed his Army ROTC service, rising to the rank of Captain before receiving an honorable discharge in 1968.
Stew and Sylvia raised their family in Pound Ridge, New York, where he was an active member of the community as a little league coach and volunteer fireman.
Stew spent the next 50 years in advertising, eventually becoming Executive Creative Director of Young & Rubicam, at the time the world’s largest advertising agency. Over his career, he worked on many prominent national advertising campaigns, sometimes traveling to remote corners of the globe. He later struck out on his own as a commercial director. He won dozens of awards including multiple Cannes Film Festival Awards, Clios, Tellys, Andys, and One Show Awards.
Stewart and Sylvia retired to Kiawah Island, South Carolina in 1999 and later moved to Ventura, California.
In retirement, Stew continued to be creative by volunteering his time to write, illustrate and direct advertising for various community organizations. In 2003, he received a “Point of Light” award from President George Bush for his work to educate the public about the problem of child sexual abuse.
Stew also took up painting, a lifelong passion, in retirement, eventually selling 50 paintings through a gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. Even in his last days, Stew started two new oil paintings and put finishing touches on a new documentary to raise awareness about domestic violence.
You can help support the causes that Stew was working on:
- 2004 – Best TV Commercial in the Super Bowl, “Mean Joe Green”
- 2004 –Photo Publishing Award, International Library of Photography
- 2003 –“Daily Points of Life”, The White House, Pres. George W. Bush and Pres. George H.W. Bush, Sr.
- 2001 –Telly Award, Gold – “Swing”, Darkness to Light, TV commercial
- 2001 –Telly Award, Gold – “My Man Done Me Wrong” Docu-Comedy Film;
- Jamaica Film Festival, Hollywood Film Festival AFI
- Film Festival, Black Film Festival, Ohio Film Festival
- 2001 – Telly Award, Silver “Faces” Darkness to Light TV commercial
- 1999 – TV Guide 100 Best Commercials of the 20th Century, American Express, Coca-Cola, Diet Pepsi
- 1988 – International Film Festival, Gold Medal
- 1987 – Clio, US Television Cinema, Best Child Performance, Director
- 1980 – The One Show, Gold; Excellence in Advertising, Kodak
- 1980 – Clio, US Television Cinema, Best Campaign, Kodak
- 1979 – Coca-Cola, “Have a Coke and a Smile“
- 1974 – The One Show, Latin American Grand Prix, Chrysler
- 1972 – 18 Film Festival International due Film Publicitaire; Silver, Venise, Johnson & Johnson
- 1972 – 19 Film Festival International due Film Publicitaire; Gold, Venise
- 1972 – Johnson & Johnson
(over 150 awards; Clio’s, Andys, AD Show Cannes, Venice, IBA Tellys, Addys, Cork Film Festival, and the One Show)