Elaine Stillwell of Rockville Centre, who for 25 years has worked to help Long Island families who lost loved ones in tragic accidents, has been named Nassau County’s senior citizen of the year.
Stillwell, 72, launched what has become the Island’s largest grief-counseling group, the Compassionate Friends of Rockville Centre, after her son Denis O’Connor, 21, and daughter Peggy O’Connor, 19, were killed in a one-car accident on the Loop Parkway Bridge at Point Lookout in 1986.
“It’s just a wonderful group of people that are helping each other,” Stillwell said. “It's the hand of God, walking right in front of your face. They come in crippled and almost crying, then they come in and meet a friend. It’s magnificent to watch.”
Stillwell, who has lived in Rockville Centre her entire life, retired in 1995 from her job teaching elementary school in North Merrick. She writes for the Grief Digest quarterly magazine and has published a series of books and DVDs for parents dealing with the deaths of their children.
“Her work has touched thousands of individuals here in our own County and around the country”, County Executive Edward Mangano said in a news release. “Elaine Stillwell is an inspiration to us all.”
Mangano is scheduled to present the award May 13 at the Older Americans Month Conference at the Long Island Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Uniondale.