After battling multiple myeloma cancer at age 91, Sunset Beach resident Karla Squier chose to spend her last days alive fighting for Sunset Beach and the importance of being heard, informed and involved in society.
Karla died Monday morning, Jan. 16, and leaves her hard work, countless photos and many contributions for future generations.
Her climb to political influence began in 1958 when she became involved in the Senate campaign for Congressman Robert Kean and the first Congressional campaign of George Wallhaurser Sr.
She was a woman of action and never stood down from confronting problems and concerns head on, even when that meant knocking on a governor’s door, her son Christian said.
“I just know that people respected her,” he noted. “She earned her respect and they earned hers.”
In 1982 she was sworn in as the position of deputy Superintendent of Elections and Deputy Commissioner of Registration in Maplewood, New Jersey.
“I really needed that job, and I was going to be good,” Karla said.
In 1959, Karla began as the vice chairman of the Maplewood Young Republicans. After earning the position as chairman and helping in multiple campaigns for congressmen, governor’s, assembly members and supporting some presidential campaigns, Karla found herself as the Superintendent of Elections and Commissioner of Registration for Essex County, New Jersey, and the elected state transportation chairman for the Grand Old Party National Convention.
“She has believed in the political process for her entire life and being born in [Washington] D.C., I think it was probably in her blood,” friend of Karla and Brunswick County Superior Court Judge Jason Disbrow said.
She was always taking care of and helping others, Disbrow and Christian noted.
“My mom never saw my [college] until I graduated. She was always taking care of everybody,” Christian added.
Karla immediately jumped into community involvement after moving from Maplewood, New Jersey, to Sunset Beach in February 2002 to be closer to Christian.
From giving money to local charities and her church, to serving on boards like Brunswick Family Assistance (BFA), Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, the Brunswick County Republican Party and more, Karla served as a service worker for others and a voice for those listening.
Karla shared stories about local individuals going through financial hardships who she had tried to help through personal relationships and BFA. She worried about local kids who don’t eat or have unstable food access.
“See, there’s just so many people that are getting hurt and they don’t know how to get around it…,” she added.
It was many times that individuals would talk with her about their situation, and she would immediately begin to make calls to fix the issue, Karla said.
“I know we all can’t be perfect, but could we just care a little more,” she said. “You’re in charge of you…”
Asked about what her goal was when it came to helping others, she replied: “Just to make sure that people weren’t getting screwed. You have no idea how many people are getting screwed.”
Christian explained that if she trusted a person, she supported them as much as she could. Karla would call as many people as she knew in the county, including mayors, to get the right people into the right places and get anything done to help a particular person.
“If you were on my mom’s team, you were on her team,” Christian said.
Karla said she believed that everyone was born with a talent, but it was how the person chose to help the community that mattered.
“No matter who you are or what you are, what country you’re from, what nation you’re from, what color you are, what gender you are, the Lord gave each and every one of us special things, special talents, and people waste them…” she noted.
Karla noted that luck was something that was earned in life. She said she viewed luck as a gift along one’s journey of giving back.
“A lot of people are really lucky, but you don’t know [and] I don’t know the life that they live — they might be out there taking care of a relative, a friend; they might be out there just doing a little something but there are a lot more people that could be doing a lot more unselfishly,” she said.
Karla said that there is difference between being a neighbor today and being a neighbor when she was younger.
It was important for neighbors to look out for one another, she added.
She broke into tears as she shared the kind and caring things that her neighbors Kevin and Charlie had done for her even when she didn’t know much about either of them.
“I wouldn’t even know what [Kevin’s] wife looked like,” she added.
She said she just wanted to see others give back and be less selfish in the world because people need help.
Despite the kindness shown to her by some and the awards she received by others, she didn’t care about getting recognition or showing off her accomplishments or lifelong work, Christian noted.
“It wasn’t to show people, because she didn’t care about [that],” he said. “… She doesn’t care about that; she wants to be behind the scenes.”
Between being feared on the election floor in her special hat, standing at the foot of Air Force One, shaking hands with presidents and Queen Elizabeth II or getting personally invited to White House private events, Karla looked at everyone as an individual, not a ranking, Christian explained.
“To her, nobody was special…” he said. “All these people were normal to her… My mom was like ‘[they] put pants on like we did,’ she goes, ‘he was just lucky.’ ”
Asked about her biggest accomplishment in life, she said it was her son. She said it would have been her daughter, Dawn, too if Dawn was still alive.
“I saw my mom as a Superwoman, [she] did it all,” Christian added.
Although she never had a physical office to clock in to or work out of, she turned a chair in her living room into her 24/7 office, he said.
After all the years of the table next to her chair being piled with notes and phone numbers and her house walls being coated in photos and memories, Christian said that he finally understood that she created her own office at home.
“That was her command center,” he said. “Because mom controlled everything from that chair…”
Every week Karla hand-snipped every death notice out of The Brunswick Beacon to send to the Board of Elections. She made it her responsibility to remove deceased individuals from the voter registry; she said it was important.
“She never wanted to retire…,” Christian said. “So, everything she has done is preparing the next generation — that’s what she thinks.”
He said it was because of Karla’s mother’s work for the government, her grandfather’s service as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, among other family members service in the military that encouraged her love for patriotism and belief in God that influenced her passion for politics and helping.
Disbrow said Karla showed up to every Brunswick County Grand Old Party (GOP) Executive Committee meeting she could attend.
“Nine times out of 10, Karla Squier would be at that table whether it was an election year or not an election year and her voice would always be heard,” Disbrow said. “When Karla spoke, people listened because, I think, she demanded the respect in her room, she has so much experience in politics. Up to this day she continues to be heavily involved in Sunset Beach politics.”
Disbrow described Karla as a genuine person who said what she meant and meant what she said.
Disbrow said that her no-nonsense, New Jersey personality with her fearless voice to speak her conviction and her compassionate heart for people and the community are what he admired most about her.
“… She added a lot of value to our local party and our local community, and she will be greatly missed when she passes on,” Disbrow said.
Karla gave her all into every position she had, every individual she trusted and every cause she could help.
“I think times have changed but the influence from my mom was it doesn’t matter, you give 100% in whatever you do,” Christian said.
Savanna Tenenoff is the staff writer at the Brunswick Beacon. Feel free to reach out with comments, questions and tips at email@example.com.