Tony Ross Sterling III
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Salisbury-Tony Ross Sterling III died Monday, February 17, 2014 at Peninsula Regional Medical Center surrounded by those he loved. Born in Salisbury, he was the son of Margaret Taylor Sterling and the late Tony R. Sterling, Jr. In addition to his mother, he is survived by his beloved sister, Margaret "Peggy Anne" Mitchell and her husband, Bob.
Tony will be long remembered for his charisma particularly his quick wit, infectious laugh and generous spirit. He was a man who worked hard and played hard. He set high expectations for himself and those around him as evidenced in his years of volunteer service with the Salisbury Fire Department and his career with Verizon that spanned over 44 years. Tony was a leader of men, a mentor and a devoted and loyal friend.
He began his career with C & P Telephone in March, 1966. During that same period, he served with the 200th MP Company of the Maryland Army National Guard attaining the rank of Sergeant as a Military Police Officer. When not working or on Guard duty, Tony traveled the East Coast racing flat track motorcycles. He became well known in racing circles and was a fan favorite, making many life-long friends.
In 1976 he joined the Salisbury Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter. He approached that with his usual style, becoming as knowledgeable as possible on every aspect of firefighting. He quickly rose through the ranks becoming an officer. He earned certification as an instructor for the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute so he could teach and mentor other firefighters through the region - even traveling by boat to teach on Smith Island.
Tony's role in the fire service was truly transformative. He has been described as having impeccable credentials, dedication and a high degree of professionalism. In 1982 he was named Fireman of the Year by the Maryland State Fireman's Association. Accomplishments that were particularly special to him include the opening of Station One on Beaglin Park Drive in April, 1986. He helped plan, design and staff the Station working closely with Chief Francis Darling and Mayor Paul Martin with support from County Council President Henry Parker and business leader Richard Henson.
In July, 1990 after having served as Assistant Chief, Tony was promoted to the newly established position of Deputy Chief, Volunteer Division by Chief Darling. He became the third highest ranking officer in the entire Salisbury Fire Department. It was one of his proudest accomplishments.
In April, 1991 Tony was recognized by Mayor Paul Martin for his work as chairman of the committee that helped craft the Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) for the Salisbury Volunteer Firemen. Salisbury was the first jurisdiction in Maryland to offer this benefit and the Salisbury program was used as a model for other municipalities to follow. Today, LOSAP is commonplace for volunteer fire service throughout the country. Again, Tony was on the cutting edge in advancing the volunteer fire service in our area.
In November, 1991, Tony used his expertise with the Incident Command system to manage the Riverside Medical Center fire. Through the cooperative efforts of many, the fire was kept from being even more devastating. The story of the fire was featured in Firehouse Magazine. Incident Command is now routinely used throughout the County.
While Tony ended his active volunteer participation in the mid-90s, he felt that being in the fire service was one of the most fulfilling experiences of his life.
Tony was proud of his 44 ½ years with what is now known as Verizon. He began as a cable splicer, served in contractor compliance and finished his career with the line crew. In his heart, he was a lineman and greatly enjoyed the crew he worked with. Tony was asked to facilitate a "culture change" initiative during one of the transitions within the phone company and he approached that with his usual thoroughness. His knowledge and his analytical mind resulted in his being called upon to tackle some of Verizon's most challenging projects. He worked closely with the Town of Ocean City on their downtown revitalization project to switch all above ground phone lines to buried underground cables, enhancing the appearance of the downtown area.
He responded to emergencies across the lower and mid shore no matter the time of night or the weather, assessing the situation and managing the emergency crew response. As a result he worked closely with Delmarva Power, Choptank Utilities and law enforcement, making many friends in the process.
Whenever possible, Tony enjoyed a good time pursuing his latest passion. Many people remember him for dressing like Santa Claus and sky-diving into the old Salisbury Mall. He was even a warm-up motorcycle act for Evel Knievel at one point. In his younger years he spent many hours on the Wicomico River and surrounding waterways always with a fast boat. For the last 15 years or so, he returned to his love of motorcycles, owning two Harley Davidsons. Whether it was a truck, a boat or a motorcycle, Tony believed it should reflect the personality of its owner. Needless to say, Tony's black Street Glide has become a legend. He enjoyed many trips to Bike Weeks in Daytona Beach, Myrtle Beach and Sturgis.
Tony was a regular participant in charity rides and had a special place in his heart for those that supported children's charities like St. Jude, Toys for Tots, children of fallen law enforcement officers or veterans.
He was particularly proud of his father's service during World War II. Other special moments were when his two step-sons graduated from the Maryland State Police Academy and when grandson Ryan was born.
In addition to his mother and sister, Tony is survived by his former wife Pyda Sterling, who he describes as his best friend and "the most righteous thing in my life"; a step-son Matt Mann and Matt's wife Lauren and daughters Julia and Makaila; step-son Michael Mann and Mike's wife Michelle and sons Ryan and Gavin. He also is survived by a step-daughter Denise Lewis, her husband Mike and children Adam and Allyson. Tony leaves a host of friends that have shared many good times with him. He will be especially missed by his constant loving companion, his dog Sassy.
Friends may call at Emmanuel Wesleyan Church, 217 Beaglin Park Drive, Salisbury, Maryland on Friday, February 21st from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, February 22nd from noon to 2 p.m. with the service beginning at 2 p.m. Burial will immediately follow at Wicomico Memorial Park.
The family especially wishes to thank those who supported Tony during his last few days. Your kindness will never be forgotten.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Tony Sterling Memorial Fund, 1324 Belmont Avenue, Suite 401, Salisbury, Maryland 21804. The fund will benefit local children and/or veterans' programs. A memorial motorcycle ride is being planned for a later date.
Those of you who know Tony know he wouldn't like all of this being said about him. Those of us who love him, believe he has lived a life deserving of it. God Bless You, Tony!
Holloway Funeral Home
501 Snow Hill Road Salisbury, MD 21804
Published in The Daily Times from Feb. 20 to Feb. 22, 2014