Raised in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Gordon attended Brooklyn Poly Technical High School and joined the Navy in 1943. He became a Naval Aviator, serving in both World War II and Korea. Gordon then joined the Port Authority as a draftsman in the mechanical engineering department. He later joined the Nesbitt Corporation as a fin tube radiation salesman and quickly became their top salesperson.
In 1968, Gordon left Nesbitt because he had grander entrepreneurial dreams and started the Gordon G. Stillwell Company out of a converted garage in his home in Rivervale, New Jersey — all while raising his six children.
Gordon specialized in air conditioning, but he soon realized that he needed a partner who would complement his expertise and help grow the business. In the summer of 1969, he entered a 50/50 partnership with his former associate, Paul Hansen, and created Stillwell-Hansen, Inc. Carol Stillwell joined their team in August of 1969 as a secretary. She then became their Director of Operations, and when Hansen retired in 1996, Carol became the company’s CEO. In 1988, Gordon married Carol, his business partner, friend and confidant for many years.
A self-made man, Gordon believed that your single greatest asset is a good name. He always had an admirable work ethic and moral compass. Gordon was a very honest, respectful man who believed that relationships were built on trust. For example, he whole-heartedly believed that it was his responsibility to tell clients if they needed to go in a different direction to get the solution they needed, even if it meant losing their business. His wife Carol has been a driving force in continuing the business’s “good name,” as well as carrying on Gordon’s philosophy of truthfulness, mentorship, and follow-through.
A man of few words, but full of wisdom, Gordon didn’t preach, but would listen and share his own experiences. He was a great mentor who was always willing to talk about his life’s journey so that others could learn from him. This is probably why he had so many “Gordon Groupies,” as they were affectionately called, since he was a friend and role model to many people.
A gentleman who was always impeccably dressed, his appearance definitely made a statement. While a very distinguished and impressive man, Gordon always enjoyed a good laugh, even if the joke was on him. In addition to his style, humor, and great passion for his family and friends, Gordon’s love of fine wine was also well known. “The Honorary Mayor of Napa Valley,” he believed that wine builds bridges among people and can often be an entrée into business. Always a gracious host, he began to hold wine tastings each week at the Stillwell-Hansen office – a tradition that management still carries on.
Gordon’s philosophy was to share his experience, expertise and success by mentoring and giving back to the community at large – both professionally and personally. When asked about gifts for himself, he always wanted the gifts to be donated to a worthy cause. Included among his favorite charities were The Salvation Army, and the Parker Family Health Center in Red Bank, NJ, where he supported and served on their Board of Trustees.
Today, Gordon’s spirit continues to live on at Stillwell-Hansen through our philanthropic endeavors, trips to Napa Valley, and building business relationships based on trust.