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Monday, July 22, 2024

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‘Thank You for Your Service’

Photo provided
Art Stilwell, formerly of North Wildwood, celebrating his 100th birthday June 23 at a party with family and friends at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home, Vineland.

By Eileen Stilwell

World War II Veteran and Former North Wildwood Resident Celebrates 100 Years

By Eileen Stilwell

VINELAND — A quiet man who values hard work, staying on top of current events and minding his own business, former North Wildwood resident Arthur R. Stilwell, celebrated his 100th birthday June 23 with family and friends at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home here.

Stilwell at his 100th birthday June 23 with granddaughter Alison Stilwell. He always wears his World War II Navy cap. (Photo provided)

As usual, this proud member of the so-called “Greatest Generation” and an eight-year resident of the home wore his signature World War II Navy cap.

“I’m always amazed by strangers who would stop, shake my hand and say, ‘Thank you for your service’ or even pick up a check somewhere,” Stilwell said. “It’s good to know the war is not forgotten.”

Born in Penns Grove, Salem County, in 1924, Stilwell joined the Navy with parental permission at 16 years of age, leaving six years later as a 1st class motor machinist. He served in the Atlantic, Pacific, Sicily and North African campaigns, operating and maintaining landing craft.

He met his wife-to-be, Dorothy Davis of West Philadelphia, now deceased, through mutual friends and married at 19. They were married for 69 years and had three children. There are now also three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Art and Dorothy Stilwell and granddaughter Alison Stilwell visited the World War II monument in Washington, D.C., in 2004. (Photo provided)

An avid stamp collector and newspaper reader, Stilwell remains a loyal fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies. In his younger days, he was active in Little League Baseball and was a model train enthusiast, a member of the Optimist Club and a sport fisherman.

“He was always fixing something,” his son, Bill Stilwell, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said. “Even the Christmas tree had to be perfect. If not, he’d buy extra branches, drill holes in the tree and attach them to get the perfect shape.”’

Stilwell’s naval career included life aboard many ships, including the USS Hampton in the Pacific. He always said he was grateful to the Navy for “grooming him” for a long and successful career in diesel engine sales and management. He retired as general manager of Engines, Inc. in the early 1980s.

Stilwell married Dorothy Davis in his naval uniform in Philadelphia in 1944. (Photo provided)

Stilwell’s connection to the Jersey Shore goes back to the 1950s, when his mother-in-law left her West Philadelphia home for a fresh start in North Wildwood. Generations of the Davis and Stilwell clans enjoyed summers there.

He and his wife retired there in the 1980s, where he loved to fish, and where his passion for fishing turned into a chartering business. He also loved working on his beloved boat, the “Raider,” at the marina.

ED. NOTE: The author is Arthur R. Stilwell’s daughter-in-law.

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