“She who leaves a trail of glitter is never forgotten.”
Carol Stillwell is a woman with a sparkling energy that lingers long after she has left the room. She takes the lead in creating the life that she loves. Although it may seem she is at center stage, it truly is the people who are around her that are at the center of her world. She is a focused and dedicated business woman, with a heart overflowing with love and compassion for others. Carol works hard at creating success in all aspects of her life, and she does it just so she can give it all away. Her world is built around other people, her philanthropic endeavors, and the company she runs where she lovingly refers to her employees as family.
Carol, in business, stands as the president of Stillwell-Hansen, Inc. Stillwell-Hansen, Inc is a company that specializes in being an HVAC solutions provider for all computer room sales and service needs, as well as commercial fire alarm, detection and suppression services.
She was raised to believe that with hard work and perseverance she could achieve any goal which she set for herself. When she began her career 50 years ago, she had a strong desire to be in construction. During that time, it was unheard of for a woman to succeed in the male dominate industry, she was determined to make it work. Growing up she would often hear her mother say to her, “Carol Ann, if you do not believe in yourself, how could you expect anyone else to believe in you?” Carol took her mother’s words to heart, committed herself to the job, and took advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow.
It was in 1969 when she came to Stillwell-Hansen, Inc, and proved that she was truly dedicated to the construction craft. She slowly gained the respect needed to thrive and has since succeeded even beyond her own expectations.
Carol heads Stillwell-Hansen, Inc with a servant’s heart, and the lines between work and home are non-existent, she is the same in every aspect of her life and treats everyone around her with love and care. Today the company has grown to more than 70 employees with over 70 million dollars in sales annually.
Carols’ journey of building her career was filled with life and events that shaped her world. These experiences put her belief in herself to the test and set her on a path of giving.
Her philanthropic journey began when her dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was in the hospital where he was being treated that Carol made a deal with God, “Just get him through this and I promise you I’ll do everything I can to give back.” Both she and God held up their end of the deal. Her father survived and Carol’s focus on philanthropy began. Her first endeavor was created through her love of horses and the equestrian world. Carol teamed up with Riverview Medical Center and began the Race for Riverview. Through the years she has given tremendously to organizations that are close to her heart. “I willingly and joyfully share all I have with others in need. I truly believe in the power of giving; the fulfillment I receive in my soul is far more than any number a bank statement could provide.”
Most recently, Carol was able to give three million dollars to the Oncology Infusion Center at Riverview Medical Center. She says this has been her proudest moment. Upon being invited to view the room, once she saw the beauty and comfort being offered she knew she had to be a part of it. “If you have ever in your life taken a breath and known that something felt so right,” she said in regards to being able to give to the Center. The Center has since been named Larkin-Stillwell Hansen Infusion Center.
In 1983, Carol proved to herself and the world what she was made of when she was in a car accident that left her in a coma, with chances of survival looking slim. She was read her last rites, but Carol defied the odds and recovered. Through her healing she endured many surgeries, lost some memories and had to learn to walk again. It was then she said, “I knew God had a mission for me.” She’s lived every day since filled with doing and giving as much as she can. She sees each day as a gift.
Carol doesn’t often use the word no. She won’t say no to a cause; she has been known to find a way or make a way. This leaves her schedule packed, with meetings, events, fundraisers, dinner with friends and acquaintances, to name a few – and there is not a thing she would change. She loves the crazy, hectic schedule of her life.
Her late husband Gordon would say being married to Carol was like being strapped to a rocket ship, you need to hold on for the ride because you are never certain where you are going to land. Carol believes this is still true and has no plans on slowing down. Most recently she was awarded People’s Choice and the Judge’s Award at The Ashley Lauren Foundation’s 6th Annual Butterfly Ball “DANCING FOR OUR STARS” competition. The Ashley Lauren Foundation provides hope and help for children and families battling pediatric cancer.
This coming May, Carol will be celebrating her 70th birthday, alongside her twin sister, Mary Ann. In true Carol style, she is hosting the party so she can give to others. Her goal is to raise money for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, B.E.A.T Center and Lunch Break. The party is intended to celebrate their 70 years, but they are doing it solely to give back.
Through it all for a woman who is always on the go, Carol is grounded in those that she loves. Her heart fills with pride when she refers to Mary Ann, calling her “a true gift to me.” Her son Scott, she says is “the love of my life.” She is so grateful for both him and his wife Megan, and how they “so willingly share me with the world.”
On rare occasions, she finds the time to vacation at her favorite destination – Napa Valley. It is there where she has such wonderful memories of her late husband Gordon. She enjoys bringing friends to experience what Gordon referred to as “God’s Country.”
She attributes so much of who she is and so much of the legacy she is leaving to the wisdom of her late husband Gordon. The best advice she has ever been given came from him – “If you spend today worrying about the what if of tomorrow then you have lost today.” She tries to pass this on whenever possible, while living each day she has in the moment, doing all that she can to make a difference, leading by example and encouraging others to do the same.
Story: Shanna Polignone
Photo: Melissa Amorelli at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank