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Pilot killed in Carlton County remembered for service to others

May 09, 2019 08:43 PM

An accomplished doctor and experienced pilot, those who knew him describe Dr. Thomas Stillwell as a person who spent his life serving others.

The 65-year-old died Wednesday. Authorities in Carlton County found his plane in the river near Moose Lake airport.

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RELATED: Carlton County sheriff says missing plane, body found in river

An investigation into what happened is underway.

Stillwell worked as a urologist in the Twin Cities, but often flew himself to rural parts of the state to see patients.

"Tom was extremely dedicated to serving the rural communities of Minnesota and Western Wisconsin," read a statement from Dr. Jeffry Twidwell, a fellow urologist who worked with Stillwell at Minnesota Urology.

"He was one of a kind. In today's world, how many specialty physicians dedicate their professional careers to serving rural areas…and travel to them by piloting their own planes? He was an incredibly generous and caring individual."

A Navy veteran, Stillwell served during the Gulf War as a field medic.

"Dr. Stillwell was an outstanding physician, colleague and friend who will be deeply missed," read part of a statement from Minnesota Urology.

"All of us at Minnesota Urology extend our condolences to his family, who remain in our thoughts and prayers."

During a 2011 presentation to the Eighth Air Force Historical Society of Minnesota, he spoke about how he took his urology specialty onto the battlefield to help soldiers who were wounded.

The conversation was archived by the organization. Larry Sagstetter maintains it.

"I'm very shocked," Sagstetter said Thursday. "I can't believe it."

Stillwell was very involved in the veteran community. Most notably, he's remembered for organizing an annual flight experience for World War II veterans.

The pilot rounded up other pilots to volunteer and took more than a hundred veterans to areas all over Minnesota.

"He just wanted to make sure they had a good day and thank them for service," Tim Franklin of Moose Lake said.

Franklin profiled Stillwell and wrote about the flights for a local magazine in Moose Lake. He remembers a humble man who often stayed away from the spotlight.

"He would never want to take credit for it, but he would always just give the credit to others," Franklin said.
 

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Kirsten Swanson

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