Everett Swan Sunderland, 96, graduated alongside Classical High School’s Class of 2012 on June 5, 80 years after he left the same school six months shy of receiving his diploma, to enlist in the Navy as a radio operator.
Sunderland has lived in East Greenwich since 1972.
In the Navy, he rose to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer and sailed across the sea and spent seven years in North Africa, Central America and the Pacific.
During 35 years of professional experience under the call sign W1LX, Sunderland has contributed to the arc of wireless technology. He is a true wireless pioneer and thought to be one of the oldest living amateur radio operators. Until only a few years ago, he was still building his own radio equipment.
Sunderland worked in signals intelligence for the Navy during WWII, listening to Japanese and German communications. He reported directly to Washington during the war. After returning from his overseas assignments, he worked as the chief engineer of the Federal Communications Commission at its Boston office. Over the course of his career, he enjoyed much satisfaction in a job that he loved.
When he was stationed in Vermont, he met his wife, the late Marcia Galgas, a registered nurse. Together, they moved to Rhode Island. Sunderland grew up in Providence, where his grandfather started a successful business, the Sunderland Bakery, on Broad Street, one block from Classical High School.
Graduation became possible after his daughter-in-law, Mimi Morimura-Sunderland, who teaches at Classical, asked Principal Scott Barr about it.
"Everett has always wanted to get a high school diploma," said Morimura-Sunderland. "I guess it was one of the things he felt missing in his long life. His grandchildren remember him sitting on a couch with the SAT prep books, when his eyes were working better. He was always studious and enjoyed accomplishments."
Sunderland has with four children and six grandchildren.