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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Isabelita M. Abele’s rise to president and CEO at U.S. Lumber is a story of immense perseverance.

Abele worked as a teacher and struggled in poverty in the Philippines where she had two small children and limited resources, so she immigrated to the United States. She arrived in New York City and became a housekeeper for an employer who mistreated her and held her against her will.

In 1984, she married Merrill Abele, changing the trajectory of Isabelita’s personal and professional life. Merrill Abele owned a lumber firm, and he asked his wife to work at his company. She made it her mission to learn the business from top to bottom.

She eventually started her own lumber brokerage company with her own clientele, buying lumber from her husband and delivering it to her clients. In 1993, Merrill semi-retired and the couple merged the businesses to create U.S. Lumber.

The company has provided supplies for high-rise buildings, hotels, casinos, universities and hospitals. U.S. Lumber also supplied lumber for two major stadium projects: Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. The company’s lumber also helped support the concrete work on the Freedom Tower, the skyscraper that replaced the destroyed World Trade Center.

“Attaining the level of CEO of U.S. Lumber wasn’t easy,” Isabelita Abele said. “But the journey taught me a great lesson that when you step out of your comfort zone, you learn new things, change and grow for the better and transform yourself into someone you thought you’re not capable of.”

The company also supplied lumber and plywood to road widening and bridge projects on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, plus major highways in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. U.S. Lumber was also part of the Septa Transit Project built by client PKF Mark III, the Trenton Route 29 Tunnel, the U.S. Postal Service Project and construction at Temple University.

“It is safe to say the U.S. Lumber has largely contributed to the success of the Tri-State economy,” the company said.

Abele serves on the Rowan University Board of Trustees. She worked with them to create a new exchange program for professors and students between Rowan University and universities in the Philippines.

“Learning never ends,” Abele said. “Seek opportunities to learn and grow and be a positive influence in your family, associates and the community.”


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