For about three decades, Huntington Beach High School activities director Darrell Stillwagon worked behind the scenes coordinating dances, homecomings, special events and graduations.
Known for his meticulous attention to school activities, he worked until 7 p.m. Wednesday night preparing for Thursday’s graduation ceremony, the last he would attend before retiring later this month.
But school staff and students were stunned to learn that Stillwagon died of congestive heart failure Thursday morning. He was 63.
“Everyone loved him,” Principal Jim Staunton said. “And now he wasn’t able to make it to his final graduation ceremony.”
The ceremony included a moment of silence in honor of Stillwagon, a Huntington Beach resident who was also a vice principal.
Those who knew Stillwagon said they would cherish the memory of his dedication to the school and selfless attitude over his 33-year career in Huntington Beach. Among his favorite sayings: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
“He was always behind the scenes to make sure everything ran perfectly,” Staunton said.
“He did a great job of making school activities special to our kids and making them feel special about our school,” said language arts teacher Pam Hostetler.
“He was a true people person. He always gave kids options and brought the best out of them.”
Last month, a retirement dinner drew 265 people, including students. Stillwagon was also selected as community grand marshal in this year’s Huntington Beach Fourth of July parade.
Before coming to Huntington Beach, Stillwagon taught in Akron, Ohio and in Midland, Pa., where he was born and raised. At Huntington Beach High, he was a teacher, coach, athletic director and advisor to the student body officers, among other duties. He was recognized as activities director of the year in 1994 by his peers and over the years received numerous awards for his dedication to youth.
Staunton said he encouraged students to enjoy graduation day “just as [Stillwagon] would have wanted them to. They deserve for it to be a joyous occasion.”
Stillwagon is survived by his wife, Donna; sons, Darrell Jr., Thomas, Jeffrey and David; three daughter-in-laws; four grandsons and two great-grandsons.
The family is holding a memorial service 10 a.m. Monday in the high school’s auditorium, 1905 Main St. Visitation will be held Saturday and Sunday at Pierce Brothers Smiths Mortuary, 627 Main St. Funeral arrangements are pending.