Robert J. Sperry ’44

Robert J. Sperry ’44, died February 12, 2015.

(The following appeared in The New Haven Register, February 24, 2015.)

Robert J. Sperry, a descendant of the founders of Guilford, died February 12, 2015 at the age of 93. In childhood, Bob spent summers at Indian Cove and often visited his grandparents at what ultimately became his home on Broad Street (1954-2015). He lovingly brought that antique home into the twentieth century, a thoughtful steward of both the house and the land.

Bob had a long career as an educator. After graduating from the Hopkins School, Bob matriculated at Bowdoin College, where he graduated in 1944 with a degree in economics. During WWII, he served in the US Army Air Corps; that experience led him to be a life-long Red Cross volunteer and blood donor. In 1951, Bob earned a Masters in Education and Counseling from Boston University and took a job as a guidance counselor in Bangor, Maine. In 1954, Bob moved to Guilford, where he remained for the rest of his 93 years. That year, he became the first Director of Guidance at Amity Regional High School (Woodbridge/Orange), and in 1958 he moved to Branford High School where he led the Guidance Department until he retired in 1984.

Bob was a communicant of Christ Episcopal Church from 1954 until his death. He sang in the choir for sixty years (1954-2014), was a member of the vestry, served on various diocesan committees, and for many years was a stalwart in the Christ Church kitchen, preparing breakfasts and dinners for countless members of the Christ Church Family.

Bob was deeply committed to agriculture and land stewardship and the support of locally grown food. Shortly before his death he was able to ensure the preservation of the Cider Mill Pasture as open space through a conservation easement granted by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

Bob will be remembered as “the man with the goats.” He began raising goats in 1970, and with that began his long service to Heifer Project International. Many dozens of goats raised on Broad Street were sent to Heifer, who in turn sent them to impoverished areas all across the globe. Bob accompanied Heifer on service trips to many countries, and was particularly enchanted by his visit to Cameroon. To support Heifer and teach about the power of goats for fighting poverty, Bob and his goats visited churches across Connecticut, often bringing a goat or two into the sanctuaries. Until his final year, Bob’s goats were a beloved fixture in the Cider Mill pasture on River Street. A life-size weather vane of his favorite goat, Mary, adorns the Regicide Cellar Barn on River St, a barn that was built by his great-grandfather, William Leete Stone.

Childhood summers at Indian Cove instilled a life-long love of sailing and the sea. Bob was on the Bowdoin swim team, and was a Red Cross swim instructor for many years. Bob was a member of the Power Squadron, where he also was an instructor. He was a founding member of the Guilford Yacht Club, in the days when it was affectionately referred to as “the mud club.” Although he had many adventures on the sea, like sailing from Chesapeake Bay to Gibraltar Spain on a 40’ boat with friends, Bob was happiest sailing the waters of New England. He sailed into his ‘90’s and was delighted to sell his beloved “We’re Here” to a Guilford resident, so that it still sails the Long Island Sound.

Bob was born May 10, 1921, in New Haven CT, to Harold Fowler Sperry and Adeline Eliot (née Stone) Sperry. Bob was preceded in death by his sister Dorothy Eliot Hitchcock (née Sperry) and his brother Alvin J. Sperry. He is survived by his wife, Hope Carter Sperry, and his sons, Timothy (m. Lynne Tirrell) and Nathaniel (m. Teresa Damron). Bob is also survived by his grandchildren, Matthew Eliot Tirrell Sperry, of Boston MA, and Elta Rose Damron Sperry, of Eugene OR. He is also survived by his former wife, Priscilla Borden Sperry and his three nieces, Margaret Henrickson, Lisa Blodgett, and Carolyn Hitchcock.