In his goodbye message to the Marana Chamber of Commerce in 2018, president and CEO Ed Stolmaker explained that he planned to maintain a presence in the community he’d spent more than a decade growing. Not only did these plans come true in the following years, but Stolmaker’s influence seems to endure through the individuals and town he worked with.
Originally born in Boston, Stolmaker worked for many years in New Jersey before coming to Marana in 1999. Though his work ethic benefitted the Marana Chamber of Commerce, of equal importance was his focus on networking for the local business community.
“Everything he did he gave 110%. Nothing was ever short-changed. If he was going to do something, he’d do it the right way. It was never a question,” said his daughter Dori Stolmaker. “As an older adult, I can look back and see all the sacrifices he made for all of us kids to be the amazing people we are today. He taught us humility, to take pride in your work, to be kind to other people. Everything that he is, we were taught.”
In his final weeks, Stolmaker saw dozens of guests at home with the help of his wife, Marianne. She says they kept busy with all the visitors who wanted to see him, and the outpouring of support uplifted Stolmaker.
"It was very heartening, seeing everyone express how much they care about him. People get very honest in those situations," Marianne said. "There was a lot of caring and passion, and many little blessings along the way. He was so humbled to learn all the effects he had on people's lives."
Marana mayor Ed Honea estimates that when Stolmaker first joined the Marana Chamber, it had some 300 members. But when he left 15 years later, the Chamber had 550 members — thanks to his focus on networking and supporting local business.
“He was a tremendous personal friend. You’re colleagues with some people, and others you get along with personally,” Honea said. “Ed was one of the most likeable people I ever met, and I don’t think I’ve seen or talked to anybody that didn’t like him. I can even talk to people that don’t like me, and they’ll tell me they like him.”
Stolmaker’s work with the Chamber included organizing quarterly luncheons, guest speakers and even devoting time for every Chamber member to introduce themselves at functions allowing for more collaboration between local business owners.
“Even if he didn’t agree, he’d be very professional as to why he didn’t agree and explaining things in detail that others could understand,” Honea said. “There were even times during State of the Town where I’d want to do something and he’d disagree, and 90% of the time he was right, doggone it.”
Stolmaker passed away due to cancer on June 22 at 75 years old. As health issues grew later in his life, he passed the role of Chamber president onto Audra Winters, who says he made the transition very easy, even staying on for extra time to ensure the Chamber was left in a good position.
“He was able to walk me through a lot of the process and introduce me to a lot of people, because I came from another state and really didn’t know a lot of people around Tucson,” Winters said. “He created this culture here at the Chamber that was more like a family and everyone wanted to get to know each other and support each other. Taking that over was such an honor.”
This work led to Stolmaker earning a Branding Iron award from the Town of Marana, awarded to those who’ve left a mark on the community.
“Whenever someone came to him with a project, he made it seem very effortless. He took it in and made sure it went with the mission of the Chamber, and connected with the right people to make it happen. It was a seamless process,” Winters said. “He was a true gentleman. He treated everyone the same and genuinely cared about your story or business. He wanted to know the person first, and then got to know the business to see how the Chamber and business could work together.”
During his tenure, the Marana Chamber was voted the best chamber of commerce in the Tucson area multiple times.
Stolmaker also served on the Marana Health Center Board of Directors and served as president of the Sanctuary Cove Board of Directors.
“Individuals within the town have learned a lot from him, just as far as being understanding of other people’s situation from a business standpoint. Not to be so definite in a yes-or-no sense, and to work with people as best as you can, to make it work for everybody,” Dori said. “He really was accommodating, and if anything, his legacy is: ‘How do we make it work for everybody?’”
As news of his passing broke, many members and businesses of the community issued fond memories and condolences. To his family, this outpouring of support was to be expected.
“I was not surprised. I knew that was how much he impacted the community, and I knew that was what he meant to so many people,” Dori said. “But I was surprised by how many people reached out that I didn’t know. I knew he was loved by so many, but I didn’t realize his reach outside of the Marana community.”
Dori even recalls a time she went to a client’s house, and was recognized by her last name. The client said he met Stolmaker years ago, and in just a brief meeting, he changed the client’s life.
“This is the influence he had on people. That gentleman is so grateful to this day to have the opportunity to meet my dad,” Dori said. “So there are so many groups, people from different walks of life, even groups outside Arizona, he impacted. I take a lot of strength in knowing that’s who he was.”
After he retired from the Marana Chamber in 2018, Stolmaker balanced his time between his kids and grandkids, and golf. In commemoration of Stolmaker and his love of golf, the Marana Chamber is renaming their annual golf tournament. The Marana Chamber Golf Tournament is now the Marana Chamber of Commerce Ed Stolmaker Golf Tournament, and is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 27, at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Golf Course.
“I really just want to thank everybody for everything they said about him. It’s so comforting to know that my father was such an inspiration for so many. That gives so much comfort in his death, and I think that is speaking for my entire family,” Dori said. “I really don’t think he knew how much of himself he passed on to other people when they met him.”