Arlie Graham Sterling, Jr. passed away at his home in Norfolk, MA on February 12, 2020 at the age of 96. Born in Crisfield, Maryland on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, he was the first of five children of Arlie Graham and Ada Beatrice (Cochrane) Sterling.
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Graham was an innovator from an early age. While a High School student in Crisfield, he designed and built a diving helmet and used it to explore the muddy bottom of the harbor. He caught and shipped eels on consignment to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. Observing his father’s business of packaging and shipping live soft-shell crabs, he commercialized a hitherto nearly worthless by-product, prematurely dead soft shell crabs, by refrigerating them and selling them door-to-door in Crisfield. In time the business of shipping live crabs was supplanted by the business of cleaning and freezing the crabs in convenient small packages that enjoyed a long shelf life frozen. He wrote eloquently about his memories of his childhood later in compiled genealogical research. These writings were lovingly prepared and bound for family during a reunion trip to Crisfield in 1995.
Graham began as a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in September 1941 and joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942. Commissioned a Second Lieutenant on May 4th, 1944, he joined the 89th Infantry Division at Le Havre, France in January, 1945, as part of General Patton’s Army. They crossed the Moselle River on March 18th and proceeded to cross the Rhine River on March 27th, and on April 6th were among the liberators of the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp. During this time, Graham was promoted to First Lieutenant and remained on active duty in Europe through VE Day, May 8, 1945, and VJ Day, August 14, 1945, and subsequently with occupation forces in Vienna, Austria.
Honorably discharged from the Army in 1946, he returned to MIT and enrolled in the Cooperative Course in Electrical Engineering. Elected to the Engineering Honor Societies Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi, he graduated with BSEE and MS Degrees in 1949.
For two years after his graduation, Graham was a Partner in the John T. Handy Company of Crisfield, Maryland. He returned to Boston in 1951 to become Production Planning Manager for Tracerlab, Inc, an electronic instrumentation company specializing in the detection, measurement and control of radioactivity.
He and Judith Harding Anderson, Wellesley College BA 1950, met in 1946 when she was a freshman at Wellesley College, and were married in the Wellesley College Chapel on May 17, 1952. They honeymooned in France, England and Scotland, where they retraced the path of Boswell and Johnson on their famous Journey to the Hebrides.
In 1957 he joined Metals and Controls, Inc. of Attleboro, Massachusetts as Production Control Manager for their Naval Nuclear Reactors Division. There he conceived and implemented innovations minimizing the consumption and recycling of scrap zirconium, an expensive metal used in nuclear fuel elements and in the precision machined components and containment vessels of Naval Nuclear Reactors. These innovations reduced the government’s procurement cost for reactors substantially. Subsequently, Graham became Procurement Manager of Metals and Controls, Inc. and was a key participant in the program for the conversion of U.S. coinage from a solid silver alloy to cupronickel clad copper. The substitute material would have to closely resemble the original and also feature particular density, magnetic permeability and electrical conductivity so that new coins would match the performance of solid silver coins in vending machines, payphones, toll booths and slot machines. The Treasury tried many materials, but only the Metals and Controls, Inc. cupronickel clad copper met the operational requirements. The Secretary of the Treasury dismissed a lingering cosmetic quibble with the prediction that “We will come to love that ruddy (copper) edge.”
In 1974, Graham joined Analog Devices, Inc., a semiconductor company in Norwood, Massachusetts, as Director of Planning and Control. Analog Devices Sales were $30 million during his first years, but had grown to $600 million by the time he retired as a Vice President in January 1990. He was influential in drafting the company’s Corporate Objective, Financial Strategy, Human Resources Policy and Defined Contribution Retirement Plan. More importantly he felt a sense of shared passion with the ambitious, growing company and with his colleagues. Personally, he was especially proud that his son, Gordon, achieved independent career success with the company.
As a member of The First Unitarian Church in Boston, Graham joined the Standing Committee and became Chair in his second term. Subsequently he was charged with converting an unfinished space in the Church to what is now the Edward Everett Hale Memorial Chapel, which features a resplendent faceted glass window designed by the artist Gyorgy Kepes.
Over these years, Graham and Judy celebrated 55 years of marriage, three children, and many shared interests, until they were parted by Judy’s death in 2007.
At home in Norfolk, Massachusetts, Graham oversaw the gradual transformation of a property infested by weedy trees and other plants into something approaching an arboretum, exhibiting a great variety of interesting and valuable trees, such as walnut, redwood, foxwood, hickory and chokeberry, often procured during the annual member tree giveaway at the Arnold Arboretum. The trees face an occasional trimming from the annual, celebratory shot of Graham’s antique signal cannon, usually on the fourth of July. The entire family and friends continue to enjoy the property’s beauty and the pool, fondly christened “Golden Pond.”
Hospitality was given to extended family over the years since Graham and Judy first moved to Norfolk with their three children in 1970. Judith’s father, Gordon Anderson, was living there when a fire struck in 1988. Fortunately no one was hurt, but extensive repairs were required, and Graham and Judy decided to expand the home at that time. In 1993 they welcomed back their youngest son, Gordon, sharing companionship and support for one another, which took on even more importance after Judy passed away in 2007. In 2015 when Gordon died, Graham lived alone in the large house. Arlie and his wife Josie moved there in November 2016 to make it possible for Graham to age in place, and Graham’s daughter Ellen visited most weekends, offering diligent and faithful support for his care. His four grandchildren, all in various stages of growing their families and careers, visited often. This unique progression speaks to Graham’s discipline, optimism, his cultivation of nature and community, and his drive to share abundantly and to weather the storms that come.
Arlie Graham Sterling leaves his son, Dr. Arlie Graham Sterling III and his wife Josephine Vilcek Sterling of Norfolk, MA, his daughter, Ellen Sterling Slater and her husband Elliot Scott Slater of Cambridge, MA, his grandchildren, Dr. Arlie Graham Sterling IV and his wife Brittany Sterling of Old Lyme, CT, his granddaughter Felicity Gwenyth Slater of Cambridge, MA, his grandson Dr. David Albert Sterling of Kansas City, MO, his grandson Gordon Alexander Slater of New York, NY, and his great grandchildren, Arlie Graham Sterling V and Mabel King Sterling.
Interment will be private, at Woodlawn Cemetery in Wellesley, MA. Should you wish to make a donation in Graham’s memory, please consider the First Church Unitarian in Boston.