She may be best known to many Beach Metro News readers as the editor of this publication for 16 years, but her name will be etched in stone at the Millennium Garden at Coxwell and Eastern for her work in the community.
Carole Stimmell has been named the 2014 Beach Citizen of the Year. The award is a joint venture between Community Centre 55, the Toronto Beaches Lions Club and Beach Metro News. Candidates are nominated by community members, while a jury consisting mainly of previous Citizens votes on who will receive the honour.
Stimmell was on vacation with family in New Hampshire when she received an email requesting her to phone Centre 55’s Nancy Culver as soon as she got back into Canada.
She called right away, thinking there might be some sort of problem with an upcoming commemoration of the start of the First World War, which she has been volunteering to help organize.
When she found out what the email was about, she was, uncharacteristically of her recent profession, at a loss for words.
“Those words about being honoured and grateful and all that sort of stuff really are true,” she said.
The only downside to learning about the award while out of the country was trying to share the news with relatives who didn’t understand what it means to be chosen by a group of some of the most selfless contributors to the community.
“I was so excited, then I realized there was nobody there who knew what it really meant,” said Stimmell, pointing out that the list of past citizens “has come to really represent the community.”
She sits on the board for Kew Cottage, as well as the working group on Centre 55’s First World War commemoration. Stimmell also helps with most of the Centre’s annual events, including the Christmas Parade and the Share A Christmas program. She is the editor of the Ontario Archaeology Society’s newsletter, and also still delivers bundles of Beach Metro News as a captain, despite retiring at the end of 2011.
Stimmell’s volunteer streak began when she first moved to the East End – across from Dentonia Park in 1983, and the last 21 years on Willow Avenue.
She began delivering Beach Metro News when it was still Ward 9 Community News, 12 years before becoming the editor. She got involved on the Glen Ames school council as well as the ward parent council.
Stimmell credits her mother, who was at one point mayor of the small Wisconsin town where she grew up, with inspiring her own desire to make a difference in her neighbourhood.
“I think it was my mother’s example. She was a do-gooder, and the community we lived in needed all hands on deck,” Stimmell said.
Her own interest in history and previous career in archaeology dictated the direction in which she focused much of her efforts. Stimmell worked with the Toronto Historical Board until it died with amalgamation, and edited the Canadian Journal of Archaeology for five years. She was on the board for Maple Cottage – where Alexander Muir wrote The Maple Leaf Forever, Canada’s unofficial first national anthem – from the time it was an abandoned, raccoon-infested, derelict shack, and Leslieville was known as a bad neighbourhood.
“It seems like whenever anybody wanted my help, I said yes,” she said.
She credits her husband Gordon for their family ending up in Canada in the first place. In 1972, when deciding where to study, he had a choice between the prestige – and expense – of Harvard, or the low tuition and chance to study with Marshall McLuhan offered by the University of Toronto.
The lower tuition allowed Stimmell to return to school as well, finishing her PhD in 1983. After working in various jobs, she came to the paper because she wasn’t pleased with the editor at the time, who left after a short stint many past staff members recall as borderline disastrous for Beach Metro News.
While she grew into the job, one aspect she hadn’t counted on was getting involved with all the people who gave freely of their time in all aspects of community life. Staying in touch with all those people – many of whom have since been named as Citizens themselves – allowed her to help people and groups make connections.
“I kind of almost made it part of the job to sit on committees, because you know where the resources are,” she said.
Her motivation for continuing to stay involved might not ring true with everyone, but for those who spend countless hours attending board meetings alongside other volunteers, her explanation might just about sum it up:
“Instead of getting our highs from running, we get it from sitting on boring committees.”