SHREWSBURY, Mass. – William "Bill" J. Stearns Jr. of Shrewsbury died of cancer Jan. 28 at his home. He was 72.
He was born in Worcester to William J. Stearns Sr. and Helen T. Powers Stearns. He graduated from South High School and enlisted in the Air Force in 1959. Stationed in France, Stearns maintained C-130 aircrafts in the 317th Cams unit.
After his honorable discharge, Stearns worked as an electrical engineer in the research and development department at the David Clarke Company for 28 years. He worked on systems for both the Mercury and Apollo space missions.
In 1968, Stearns was able to witness the launch of Apollo 8. He played an essential part in the design of the communication system for the Snoopy Cap, which Neil Armstrong used to speak from the moon.
Stearns was presented with the Silver Snoopy Award in 1988, making him one of the only civilian recipients. Upon leaving David Clark, he became vice president of quality control at Electrowire in Leominster for 16 years, until his retirement in 2008.
An avid restorer and collector of classic cars, Stearns served as a committee member for Friday Night Cruisin’ on Grove Street in Worcester. An "Oldsmobile man," he restored several models, including two '64s, a '59 and a '53.
While battling cancer, he built a 1930 Ford hot rod from the ground up with a 403 Oldsmobile engine. A woodworker, carver and turner, he was currently building a custom street rod with an all-wooden body.
Stearns is survived by his wife of 38 years, Elaine M. Galvich Stearns; two sons, Bill (Margaret) Stearns III, of Hollis, N.H., and Bob E. (Tanja) Stearns, of Westford, Mass.; a daughter, Lisa M. (Virginia) Harris, of Worcester; a brother, Thomas (Beverly) Stearns, of Boquete, Panama; eight grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces. He was predeceased by a brother, Paul Stearns.
Visitation is from 11 a.m. to noon Friday at Alfred Roy and Sons Funeral Home in Worcester. Burial with military honors will follow at Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 30 Speen Street, Framingham, MA 01701.