Business builder Stilwell was a friend and mentor


Hugh Michael Stilwell, teacher, sailor, entrepreneur, friend and loving family man, has died suddenly, aged 51.

After growing up speaking English and French in Montreal, in 1972 Mike came as a teacher to Arctic Bay, where he became quite proficient in Inuktitut.

He left teaching in 1975 to work with the Government of the Northwest Territories, serving first as settlement manager in Grise Fiord and Hall Beach before moving to Iqaluit as executive assistant to the regional director for the Baffin region.

Mike later served as executive assistant to the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories in Yellowknife and then as regional director for the Keewatin and Fort Smith regions, sucessively. In 1985 Mike was appointed deputy minister of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

Mike left the public service in 1986, putting his energy and experience to work in his own consulting business, Management North Ltd.. It was about this time that he combined his sense of enterprise with a love of the outdoors by launching a sailing and boat-charter business on Great Slave Lake called Sail North.

Together with his longtime business partner Brett Wolfe, he established Pier One Marine Ltd, a boat-repair and maintenance shop based in Yellowknife. He seized on business opportuniies presented by division and created Nunavut Management Ltd. in Iqaluit with friend and associate, Chuck Gilhuly.

Recognizing the need for alternate sources of capital for Northern businesses, Mike was also a founding partner in Montrose Northern Capital and he sat on the board of directors of Arctic Financial Ltd.

Ever the teacher, Mike had a knack for mentoring and developing the talents of others and his capacity for hard work and enthusiasm were a source of inspiration for many.

Mike exulted in watching business ideas grow and flourish, and he eagerly made his expertise available to a number of young northerners over the years. Recently, he was active exploring ways to promote development of a manufacturing sector.

Mike remained active to the end, which came June 5 after a vigorous day of preparations for yet another busy tourist season. He will be remembered by family, friends, colleagues and clients across the NWT and Nunavut, and sadly missed by many a sailor in trouble.

He is survived by Barbara O’Neill, his loving partner; daughters Dawn in Victoria. B.C. and Kerry in Edmonton, Alta; his parents, Winnifred and Gordon Stilwell of Montreal; brothers Larry (Gail), Rod (Cheryl) and Dale (Casey); sisters Candace MacFarlane (Donald) and Wendy Pilling (David).

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