Obituary: William E. Sperry
William Elliott Sperry of New Canaan, Vergennes, Vt., and Sconset, Mass., passed away at home on April 17, 2013, after a long battle with cancer.
Bill was born on Jan. 26, 1930, in White Plains, N.Y. to Violet Elliott and Louis Fenn Sperry of Scarsdale, N.Y.
After graduating from Scarsdale High School, he attended his father’s alma mater, Williams College, leading the way for his two sons, and one granddaughter, making a four-generation legacy.
His passion for Williams drove a lifelong service record which was recognized by his receipt of the Rogerson Cup Award in 1996, the college’s highest award for alumni service. While at Williams, he had a long list of activities: president of Phi Gamma Delta, treasurer of the Gargoyle Society, class secretary, Undergraduate Council, Purple Key, Athletic Council and the football and swim teams. But his most active pursuit was making lifelong friends with his classmates, his sons’ classmates, coaches and administrators that comprised the Williams that he loved so dearly.
After graduating from Williams in 1951, he received his MBA from Harvard University in 1953. Upon leaving Harvard University, he served as a First Lieutenant in the Army, working at the Pentagon.
His professional career began at Campbell Soup in the Philadelphia area, which also included a year in Mexico City. From Campbell, he moved on to McKinsey & Co, a strategy consulting firm. There, he continued to develop his marketing skills and understanding of the retailing industry, which he next put to work at Melville Corporation, with time spent in both Tokyo and New York.
He spent most of his working life with the newly-founded Amcena Corporation, a holding company created to acquire and operate apparel specialty store chains. Bill spearheaded the acquisitions of Miller’s Outpost, Maurice’s and Eastern Mountain Sports amongst others. As their senior vice president, he oversaw the portfolio of retailing concepts owned by Amcena and was responsible for acquiring new platforms to grow the enterprise. Bill was a director of the American Retail Group and will be remembered by his colleagues as a highly respected and effective leader. He continued to be involved with Eastern Mountain Sports in various capacities, including being president in 1997 and 1998.
Bill was a member of The Board of Trustees at Colonial Williamsburg from 1988-2000, and was a valued advisor on matters related to Colonial Williamsburg’s products business in particular, drawing on his extensive expertise in merchandising. He also served as a director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for a number of years.
As a youth, he went to Camp Dudley where he formed wonderful friendships and became drawn to Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. He was a member of The Basin Harbor Club of Vermont, The Country Club of New Canaan, The Harvard Club of New York City, and The Sconset Casino on Nantucket.
He was an avid sportsman and loved golf, football, baseball, racket sports, biking, swimming, waterskiing, and boating on Lake Champlain, and generally serving as the camp director for the entire Sperry family.
In addition to his wife, Kitty Sperry, he is survived by four children: Carly Sperry Olson (Jon) of Duxbury, Mass.; Bill Sperry (Kate) of Darien; Jim Sperry (Andrea) of Rochester, N.Y.; and Whizzy Sperry Roof (Bill) of Hingham, Mass.; and two stepsons, Jamie McLean of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Carter McLean (Sabbath) of Ridgefield. His wife of 37 years, Nancy Rutherford Sperry, predeceased him in 1995. He has nine grandchildren: Anna Olson, Kara, Billy and Megan Sperry, Ellie and Lucy Roof, Juliana Sperry, and Maddy and Marshall Ireland. He is also survived by his 14-year-old dog, Sam and his 12-year-old dog, Berkeley.
We know he’s in heaven, leading the pack with a twinkle in his eye and an adventuresome and mischievous spirit that will be missed by many.
A memorial service will be held to honor Bill on Friday, April 26, at 2 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Parish in Darien. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to Bill’s aide and critical support team, Liveny Chery, c/o Sperry, 58 Deer Park Road, New Canaan, CT 06840.
— The Family