Samuel Paine Sturgis

March 27, 1922March 11, 2012

Samuel P. Sturgis, son of Dr. Cyrus C. and Una Smith Sturgis died on March 11, 2012. He was 89 years old. Born in Boston, MA in 1922, he moved with his family, including brothers Cyrus Jr., and William, to Ann Arbor in 1927, when his father accepted a position as Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Simpson Memorial Institute at the University of Michigan Medical School. Sam graduated from University High school in 1940, in the same class as his future wife, Margaret Ruth McCarthy. Following his service as a Naval Aviator, he and Margaret (Peggy) were married in 1945. They had one son, Samuel Paine Sturgis, III, who is now a resident of Massachusetts. Sam and Peg were divorced in 1975. Peg is still living and resides in Massachusetts near her son, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Sam is survived by his son Sam, grandchildren Katherine Sturgis Donohue and David Sturgis, and Katharine’s children, Bridget Rose, Liam Samuel and Henry Patrick Donohue. Sam, as a 14 month old child, had the distinction of being selected as “prize baby” at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, where his father was Assistant Professor of Medicine. Although he was never able to completely live this down, he was extremely photogenic in his earlier years and the rationale for the selection was clear. Sam was interested in both photography and flying from an early age and attended Rochester Institute of Technology to study professional photography. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a flight cadet in the fall of 1942 and was commissioned as Ensign in January, 1944. He served about the newly-commissioned aircraft carrier USS Bennington in the South Pacific and flew numerous missions as photo reconnaissance pilot. As a combat pilot, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals for his service. In a major air battle near Okinawa, he was credited with downing a Japanese ‘Val’ dive bomber. He remained a pilot in the Naval Reserve until he retired in the early 1950’s. Sam’s interest in photography continued after the war, and he took jobs as portrait photographer first in South Bend, IN, and then at Dey Studio in Ann Arbor. In the mid-1960’s, he received the “Michigan Photographer of the Year” award from the Michigan Association of Professional Photographers. He then opened his own photo studio in Ann Arbor, Sam Sturgis Photographer. He continued in this business until the mid-1980’s when he retired. His interest in photography extended to collecting antique photographs of the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and surrounding areas. This extensive collection of photographs, compiled with Hazel Proctor, was donated to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan and is available there as the Sam Sturgis photograph collection. In his later years, Sam was an active member of the Yankee Air Force and had many friends among the former servicemen and flying enthusiasts there.


  • Memorial Gathering Saturday, March 17, 2012

Samuel Paine Sturgis

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August 25, 2012

I didn't know that my Uncle Sam had died. I will miss him. he was a wonderful photographer, artist and uncle. Elizabeth Claire (Libby) Sturgis

Mike Carpenter

August 16, 2012

Yesterday I drove over to see you. As I approached your home, I could sense you were gone. I had last seen you at the VA hospital early this year. I wanted to come see you earlier this year but time didn't permit me to. I wish I didn't listen to time now.
We had many great time at the Towers where your business was. They are forever etched in my memory. Many great time at your home also....while painting the place.
You taught me so much when I was a younger man and will be forever greatful. I still use my film cameras ..thanks to you.
Right now I know you are in your plane guarding the heavens above....
As my health is failing rapidly now, I will join you one day.....Mike Carpenter

gerri mitchell

June 17, 2012

Sam was a great mentor and inspiration to me. We shared a love of photography and he was always kind and generous. I will miss you Sam,

Russ Banush

May 3, 2012

I loved Sam as he shared a lot of his war experience stories with me when he would visit the Yankee Air Museum on Saturdays. In later years I would wheel him around in the wheel chair in Hangar 2 at Willow Run Airport. It was really too much to ask him to walk all the way to view the World War One airplane being built from scratch. He shared a lot of photos with me, also.

In early April after reading the book "Flyboys" I tried telephoning him a couple of times to tell him the book had a lot of stories about fliers from aircraft carrier Bennington in the attacks on Chi Chi Jima.

He was one of the heroes of WW 2.

Mary Bonisteel

March 22, 2012

In my brief time of knowing Sam, he has left a very special feeling in my heart. Always had a cheerful smile and good morning greeting, for me everyday, no matter how he was feeling.
Had a sense of humor that always made me laugh. I feel he helped me as much as I helped him. So glad I had the time with him. May peace and love fill your hearts in his absence.

Marilyn Wilkie

March 19, 2012

Sam took my high school graduation picture when I graduated from Ann Arbor High in 1965. He actually made me look good! He was a wonderful man. Everyone went to him to have their picture taken back then. He will be missed.

March 17, 2012

I first met Sam when I was about 5 years old. I was visiting his parents' house on Stratford Drive with my sister Nancy and her husband Bill Sturgis, who was Sam's youngest brother. Sam was wearing his Navy Whites uniform, and I was smitten. To me he was the closest thing to Prince Charming.
Through the years, I got to know him better at regular Sunday dinners at his parents, with the Ann Arbor Sturgis family present. Later, I sat in his studio while he took my senior photo, my engagement picture and then photographed my wedding.

In the 1950s, Sam, Peggy,and young Sam welcomed me as their passenger on a long, hot summer road trip from Ann Arbor to New Mexico to see my sister and brother-in-law Bill. I remember Sam as being very accommodating when Sammy & wanted to visit the tourist stops along the way, the caves in Missouri were one of those stops. I am sure Sammy remembers more of that trip. In the late 50s Sam, Peggy, Nancy, Bill, Sammy, and I spent a wonderful summer in Traverse City, right on Lake Michigan. The two brothers, Sam & Bill patiently taught me to water ski.

I had lost touch with Sam when my husband and I moved to Indiana. I only saw him on brief visits to Ann Arbor. Until now, I never really understood and appreciated what he did in WW II, but I now consider him a member of that Greatest Generation. I want to extend my sincere condolences to all the Sturgis family. Happy memories. Judith Hall Ohlgren

Claudella A Jones

March 17, 2012

Sam was always a good friend to our family and I have fond memories of many happy times together...he loved to laugh and tell stories....particularly memorable were of WWII and his service and exploits as a pilot and photographer on an Aircraft Carrier in the Pacific....the greatest generation...

Steve & Mary Martin

March 16, 2012

Our family will greatly miss Sam. He has been a wonderful neighbor and wonderful friend all these years. So sorry for your loss.

Sharon "Ralph" Gingras

March 16, 2012

Please accept my sincere condolences Sam in the loss of your father. I remember both your parents as we were attending Carpenter Elementary school. Give your mom my best, also. May God be with you all during this time.