Hometown Heroes Connie Shields-Stolcis and Irene Bullock are ready to help no matter what time it is. - Brian Kelly
Hometown Heroes Connie Shields-Stolcis and Irene Bullock are ready to help no matter what time it is.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

Shirley (Irene) Bullock

Born: April 20, 1949 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Siblings: Four, all just one year a part.

Education: Utah, Nursing LPN.

Children: Two daughters; Terra, 31, and Michelle, 29.

Years on Whidbey: 27.

Hobby: Reading.

A few South Whidbey people you admire?

“B.J. Elliott, Laura Price, Jeanne Lepisto, Sharon Emerson, Bob Herzberg, Wilma New, Linda Morris, Connie Stolcis, Paul Busch, all 92 volunteers for the fire department and all of my sisters in Women in Black.”

What does it mean to have class?

“To be honest.”

What would you like to apologize about?

“For not being home more.”

What would you like to change in yourself?

“Think before I speak.”

In this community? More people would volunteer for the fire department.”

What is something people don’t know about you?

“I can’t think of anything. I live by the belief, ‘The way to not have people talk about you is to tell your own story first.’”

Who inspired you the most?

“My mother. She was so kind and loving. She was the perfect nurse and never complained even when her own health failed her.”

If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

“Why we humans never learn how destructive wars are for both sides.”

What do you

wish people would understand?

“I wish people would really understand more about ‘Women in Black.’ We are woman from all religious and political backgrounds standing silently for peace in this world. We are patriotic and supportive of our troops. We stand silently and do not engage in conversation. We pray for peace and to stop violence in our homes, our streets, our schools and around the world.”

What are some

difficulties you had to overcome?

“Being legally blind for four years. I didn’t know if I would ever regain my sight; the doctors didn’t give me much hope. But I know what cured me — prayers.”

What is your favorite adage?

“John Wesley’s, ‘Do all the good you can, by all the means you can.’”

What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?

“Bury my son Jefferson. He died at birth. A couple of months after that I went back to work in the nursery at the hospital and got to take care of a dying baby named Charley. He lived a short three months. I still have Charley’s picture on my mantel.”

What six words would you choose for your epitaph?

“A mother who loved her children.”

What is the best way to conduct ourselves?

“To see the face of God in everyone we meet.”

Constance (Connie) Shields-Stolcis

Born: April 18, 1950, in Rice Lake, Wisc.

Siblings: Two, Steve and Jess.

Education: Bozeman, Mont.

Spouse: William (Bill) Stolcis; the couple married Feb. 2, 1997.

Children: Three; Stephanie, 37, Laramie, 30, and Jon, 23.

Grandchildren: Mackenzie, 5.

Years on Whidbey: 26.

Hobbies: Gardening, reading, camping, cooking and walking her dog Sage.

What would you like people on South Whidbey to know?

“Both Connie and Irene and the fire department wish individuals would take seriously preparing for a disaster. Take classes offered locally. Buy flashlights, food and water. Have an emergency kit and first aid kit at home and in you car. Call the fire department, CERT, Red Cross or one of the local disaster preparedness teams for information or get involved.”

Personal sides

What do you wish you could do over again from what you know now?

“Parenting. It would be nice to have the insight and experience we obtain from raising our children before we raise them. Somehow, I would have found more time to spend with them. Becoming a mother is the most important and life-changing event of my life.”

Do you have regrets?

“If I know I hadn’t done my best in a given situation, I regret that.”

What is something that has always bothered you?

“What causes some people to inflict emotional and physical pain onto others — why is there so much suffering in the world?”

What does it mean to have power?

“The ability to affect change. This doesn’t have to be on a world level, it can be to one person, giving them the knowledge or encouragement they need to affect change in themselves.”

Your favorite book?

“A children’s book ‘Freddie the Leaf.’ I read this book to Jon when my husband, his dad, died when he was 3 years old. I read to him this book every night for six months and it helped him understand about death. Then Jon heard of a little girl that had lost her mother and he gave the book to her.”

What is something you would like to do?

“Support others with head injuries and their families.”

What beliefs and values do you try to live by?

“I try to conduct my life in a manner God would approve of. I believe being kind to others brings personal joy. If I need help the Lord will be there to hold me. Do your best and don’t do anything you wouldn’t tell your mother about.”

What is one question you would like to ask God?

“What is it you would have me do with the rest of my life?”

What do you wish you had never found out?

“What hot dogs are made of.”

What six words would you choose for your epitaph?

“Darlings smile for me. I’m home.”

What is the kindest thing people have done for you?

“This community, the way they supported Bill, Jon and I through Jon’s head injury.”

What do you wish you could find out?

“I keep dreaming I have written this book that helps a lot of people, and is, of course, a best-seller, but then when I wake up I can’t remember what it’s about.”

If you could be an inanimate object what would it be?

“A tall tree. I could see in the distance, feel the wind blow through my branches, have birds nest and roost on me and feel connected to the earth.”

What others have to say about Irene and Connie

“Irene is one of the most deeply committed, community minded people I know. Her caring concern for all people is evident in her actions and in her smile every day. She is motivated by a passion for fairness and the well-being of all people. Irene is a perfect example of how one person can make a positive difference in the lives of many others — simply by using the gifts she has in service to others.”

Pastor David Vergin, Langley United Methodist Church

“I first met Irene and her daughter, Terra, 17 years ago when my husband Harry and I were new to Whidbey. Soon after, we joined the Langley United Methodist Church and there was Irene as the secretary. That following week I stopped in to shop at the store Goodfellows on First Street — and there was Irene working part-time. Somehow she is also an EMT and Home Health Care nurse. I marvel at her pleasant, even disposition, kindness, her forthrightness and her deep faith in God.”

B.J. Elliott, community volunteer

“If I was in a bad way and there was one person I could choose to care for me, it would be Irene. Irene is a truly good person who is always thinking of others. If there were more people like her, the world would be a much better place.”

Linda Morris, musician and community activist

“I’ve worked with Irene for over 20 years in home care. What I most admire about her is she’s never satisfied to just talk a good talk — she can always be counted on to find ways to turn talk into positive action. For example, we were talking in the office recently about improving office relations. She thought about it and over the course of a couple of months gave a small thoughtful gift to each person in the office to show her appreciation. All of this without any fanfare or drama.”

Sharon Emerson, RN, co-owner Island Home Nursing

“My contacts with Irene are in the medical field and in law enforcement. I know her as a first responder. On the scene she is a calming, assuring person who always puts the patient at ease.”

Laura Price, law enforcement officer

“Irene is a world-class listener to people of all ages. I enjoy working with her at the church and appreciate her willingness to train church school teachers in first aid, as well as helping in many other areas. She lives her faith in her daily life as made evident by her willingness to help wherever she can at a moments notice.”

Mary Vergin, Langley United Methodist Church Program Associate

“We have known Irene for only a short time, but we have discovered that her knowledge of Whidbey Island and its residents is encyclopedic! Put that knowledge together with a generous heart and you have a winner.”

Rev. John and Rev. Barbara Worthington, temporary co-pastors, Langley United Methodist Church

“When my husband was ill both Connie and her husband Bill were an amazing source of support for my daughter Jamie and I. I can’t tell you how many days they sat in hospitals so we wouldn’t be alone. This went on for three years and numerous hospital stays. When we brought my husband home and he was dying, Connie stayed with us, day and night, helping me take care of my husband and caring for us, as well. She knows the true meaning of being a Christian and she lives it every day, with out any fanfare.”

Terri Sullivan, co-owner of Whidbey’s Perennial Favorites

“Connie is a heroine and a mainstay for all of us who trained under her as EMTs. She is steady, approachable, and with great capacity for instilling in her charges those skills that are essential to managing stressful emergency situations. And she does it with grace!”

Bob Howie, LCDR, USN (Ret.), Dist. 3 firefighter, EMT (Ret.)

“I would like to say a couple of things about my wife Connie. She is the most selfless, caring and compassionate person I know. She is always thinking of the little things to say or do that will make people feel good knowing someone is thinking about them. She will take the most valuable gift we can give to someone — our time — and give it happily and without a second thought. She always champions the sick, weak, the broken-hearted, the frightened and the lonely; really anyone in need. She has lived her life in the service of others both professionally and her personal life.”

Bill Stolcis, Connie’s husband and fire department volunteer

“I deeply respect Connie and Irene. They share their expertise with a deep commitment to the community and still find time to do the three L’s — love, laugh and live — better than most.”

Paula Schuler, Fire District 3 administrator

“Connie is a dear friend and leader. As many of us know, her full-time work as EMT trainer has been augmented, of late, by the full time responsibility for the medical care of a close family member. Game gal, that’s Connie!”

Shirley Yale-Howie, volunteer

“Connie, as well as her husband Bill, are two of the most caring people on this entire island. When Clancy suffered a heart attack a couple of years ago at 11:30 p.m. Connie and Bill rushed up to the hospital as soon as they heard to comfort us both. I am convinced that the Island County fire department saved Clancy’s life, so the fine surgeon could do his kind work.”

Clancy and Mary Lou Overtures, fire department and community volunteers

“My mom stands for loving and caring to her family and for other people. She has been an inspiration always to me. The manner in which she’s taken care of me while I have been recovering from a car accident shows her compassion, commitment and love. My mom will do anything for anyone, including me.”

Jon Shields, volunteer firefighter and Connie’s son

“Connie is a very dedicated and heartfelt person. I have seen her go through the worst of times and yet she remains one of the strongest people I have ever known. She has sacrificed a lot for the fire department and the citizens of Island County. She continually teaches EMT classes to ensure we have dedicated and well-trained volunteers on the Island to respond to 911 emergencies.”

Liz Smith, firefighter/EMT/fire and rescue Whidbey General Hospital

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