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Edmund J. Sterniak, 100, of Southington, beloved husband for 72 years to the late Sophia “Sue” Sterniak, passed away peacefully while surrounded by his family on May 30, 2017.
Born in Naugatuck, CT on August 11, 1916, son of the late Joseph J. and Mary (Dutkowska) Sterniak, Ed graduated from Naugatuck High School where he participated in all sports. In 1936 he was the captain of the basketball team and organized the golf team. Ed was also Vice President of the Junior and Senior High School Classes. He attended Providence College in Rhode Island on football and basketball scholarship until he returned to CT so he could provide financial support to his parents.
Ed played on the US Rubber Company basketball team, winning the 1937 State Industrial Championship. He also played semi-pro football in Naugatuck and Waterbury.
On March 9, 1943, Ed married Sophia Klepacki at Immaculate Conception Church, officiated by Rev. Alexander Tanski.
Ed served in the US Army-Field Artillery 86th Blackhawk Division, in WWII. Upon returning to Southington, Ed was a part-time Physical Education Instructor at the YMCA. He was appointed Supernumerary Police Officer, and was a member of the Town Safety Committee from 1945-1948.
Ed worked full time at New Britain Machine Company, playing basketball in the New Britain Industrial League at the old Stanley Arena, winning three City, two State, and one Eastern States Championships. He won the Most Valuable Player “Waskowicz” award in 1948.
On March 1, 1949, Ed passed the entrance exam and was appointed by Commissioner Edward j. Hickey to attend the Connecticut State Police Academy in Bethany, graduating in June. Ed completed “on the job” highway safety and assorted departmental assignments with Ford cruisers and Harley Davidson motorcycles, under Captain Ralph Buckley and Sgt. Vernon Gedney. On November 3, 1949, Ed was assigned to the Canaan barracks, where he was allowed to go home one day per week.
In 1951, he was reassigned to the Hartford barracks. He worked under five different commanders, conducting assorted duties including highway safety, patrolling the Berlin turnpike, before traffic light control, and plain clothes detective investigations. He was substitute chauffeur for Commissioner E.J. Hickey, Judges Molloy and Cotter, Secretary of State Mildred Allen and Governor Abraham Ribicoff. In 1955, he was marooned/lived in his cruiser for five days in Collinsville until the US army Corp of Engineers constructed a Bailey Bridge over the Farmington River.
In July, 1959, Commissioner Leo J. Mulcahy transferred Sterniak into the State Fire Marshal’s office at headquarters under Major Carroll E. Shaw, Deputy Fire Marshal. In that capacity, he attended Fire Arson Investigation Public Safety Seminars at the University of Connecticut, Purdue University in Indiana, and Rutgers University in New Jersey. Ed handled or assisted in many of the major fire events in Connecticut during 1959-1969, including the Hartford Hospital fire (16 deaths) Norwich tannery (5 deaths, including a fireman) Old Wethersfield State Prison (5 arson fires), Rocky Hill gasoline bulk storage fire, Danbury business section fires, Danielson Restaurant fire, suspicious fires in South Windsor, Essex boat marina fire, suspicious firework aerial pieces fortified with sticks of dynamite in Woodbridge, Norwich leather factory fire (5 dead firemen), Greenwich RR electrocution, Norwalk flammable liquid (10,000 gallons of gasoline) spill into the harbor, Stearns Dairy Farm barn fire in Mansfield, suspicious barn fires in Prospect and special belated fire investigation for the state of Maine in Oxford, ME which resulted in the deaths of 4 adults and 4 children. Ed supervised fire safety at the Danbury Fair for six years, along with assignments at all race tracks, circuses, carnivals, and motion picture theatres, (existing and new construction). He conducted the first statewide inspections of highway hazardous cargos.
Ed also found time to organize golf matches for Troop H with Massachusetts and Rhode Island Police Departments and he coached Troop h and Headquarters basketball teams with Hartford and local teams.
He received many meritorious citations for outstanding police service and retired as a Sergeant after 22 years with the Connecticut State police Department. He then accepted the position of Fire Prevention Supervisor was assistant to his CSP “boss” Carroll E. Shaw, who was hired as Yale University’s first Fire Marshal in October 1969 to set up a Fire Prevention/protection program as the University, after the Art and Architecture Building fire in 1968. Shaw’s contract with Yale ended in 1972 and Sterniak became Yale’s second Fire Marshal after Shaw’s departure. As the University Fire Marshal, Sterniak conducted all fire investigations/inspections of all Yale University buildings in New Haven, working with eh New Haven Fire marshal and building departments. He also checked Yale University properties in other CT towns and in NY.
Ed attended the NFPA conferences in St. Louis, MO, Houston, TX, Chicago, IL, and Underwriter’s Laboratories in Northbrook, IL. He participated in benchmarking efforts with Princeton, and Harvard Fire Marshals. Sterniak attended the State Fire Marshall Building Inspector and New England Fire Marshal Monthly and Annual Meetings.
Ed retired from Yale University in 1992, receiving the Cup and Saucer from Morey’s Famous Restaurant and Yale University armchair from work associates.
Sterniak, an avid golfer, was a very active teenage caddy, scored eight “holes in one”, the first at East Mountain Golf Course in Waterbury in 1940, the next three at Southington CC, one in 1964 and then two more within three weeks of each other (July 15 and August 2, 1993) He also scored four aces in Florida (4/11/84, 5/3/97, 1/15/99, 3/20/99). Ed was a golf member over the years at East Mountain, Southington CC, Golf Club of Avon, Yale University Golf Club, and Sun City, FL-King’s Point Golf Course. Ed participated in the Senior Golf League for 20 years, and was a chairman of the league for 10 years. Ed played in the Senior League for the last time in summer of 2006 at the age of 90.
Ed was a life member (60 years) of the American Legion, Post #72 in Southington, CT, CT Fire Marshal’s Association, New England Fire Marshal’s Association, CT Building Inspector’s Association, charter member and first Treasurer of the CT State police Academy Alumni Association.
Ed was also a member of Immaculate Conception Church in Southington, CT since March 1943. He served on the first Parish Council under Rev. Theodore Gubala. While in FL for the winters, Ed was a ‘Snowbird Parish Member” at Prince of Peace Church in Sun City Center, FL, where he served as Recording Secretary for the Sun City Center Polish American Club for 6 years.
Besides his loving wife, Sophia, who predeceased him in 2015, Ed is survived by his devoted family; son Edmund, Jr. of Southington, son Ronald and wife, Nancy of Canton, MI, daughter, Susan, who returned to Southington after 31 years in CO, grandson, Jeffrey and his wife, Diana in MI, grandson, Joel, a PA state trooper and wife, Kelly; and great-grandchildren, Lucas, Erica, and Verity of MI. Ed is also survived by his last remaining sibling, Ann, widow of Victor Verbyla. Additional nieces, nephews, and cousins live in Southington, Naugatuck, North Carolina, Florida, New York, New jersey, and Maine.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday at 9 a.m. from Plantsville Funeral Home 975 S. Main St, Plantsville, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 130 Summer St, Southington. Committal services will follow at Immaculate Conception Cemetery. Family and friends may gather on Friday evening, from 4-7 p.m. at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Immaculate Conception Church or the charity of the donor’s choice.
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