Sterling Stratton died this week.
When I landed on Prince Edward Island for a job interview at the PEI Crafts Council in the winter of 1993, one of the first people I met was Sterling.
Sterling was Secretary of the Council’s board of directors at the time; an active and engaged director, his membership was by virtue of his work as a pyrographer, an avocation he’d taken on with great enthusiasm.
I got the job, and, over the years that followed, Sterling popped in and out of my life at regular intervals.
Our worlds overlapped again when I was President of PEI Home and School Federation: Sterling was an educator through and through, and knew the world of education from the inside out, having worked as a teacher, principal, school superintendent, and union representative (I remember him telling me once that the reason that PEI teachers don’t have the right to strike is because of a deal he and former Premier Alex Campbell worked out when Sterling was tasked with developing a collective agreement at the birth of the PEI Teachers Federation).
Sterling didn’t set aside his deep interest in education after retirement, and he was a frequent source of wise counsel to me at Home and School, offering advice on everything from the right size of a school board (he maintained that the perfect size was small enough to have parents connected to education in their communities, but large enough that individual families couldn’t rally to have a teacher dismissed) to how to cultivate relationships among parents, students, teachers, and administrators. Sterling had very strong ideas about the best way to elect school trustees, and that we returned to elected school boards last year is something that, behind the scenes, he played an important advisory role in.
Outside of education, Sterling was a talented artist, and a skilled pitchman: he transitioned from working in wood burning to working with pen and ink, and he sketched more than his fair share of Prince Edward Island churches, important buildings, and houses (including our own), self-publishing a series of books that will serve history well.
Sterling was a man of great humour, incisive wit, uncommon frankness, bold imagination.
He spoke up.
I will miss him.
My father always spoke highly of Sterling's work as a superintendent back in the days of the five school districts. I'm happy to learn he had a hand in the return of an elected board.
That was a lovely tribute. Sorry for your loss, Peter.
Sterling lived across the street from me growing up in Sherwood and I would visit him and Gloria with my dogs, who played with their dog, Cookie.
Over the years I’ve kept in touch with them and have always considered them to be something of an additional set of grandparents. Sterling was such a smart and interesting man, and a great storyteller. He was a great influence on me. RIP.