Joseph R.L. Sterne, Former Baltimore Sun Editorial Page Editor, Dies at 92

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Born on April 25, 1928 to Robert Livingston Sterne and Edith Eisner Heymann in Philadelphia, Pa. Joe’s father worked in commercial real estate and his mother was a housemaker. Joe grew up in Germantown section of Philadelphia and went to public school, graduating from Central High School. Joe died on April 4, 2021. He will be missed by his half-brothers, Harry Rosenberg, Naples, Florida and John Sterne, of Brewster Massachusetts. He was predeceased by his sister, Barbara and younger half-brother, Robert Jr.

Joe went to Lehigh University where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and was elected to The Phi Beta Kappa Society. At Lehigh, he worked on the college newspaper, The Brown & White. This experience shaped his career to the regret of his father who wanted him to go into the family real estate business. After college, he got his first job at The Salt Lake Telegram and then spent 1949-1950 at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. After working briefly for The Wall Street Journal, he joined the staff at the Dallas Morning News. In Dallas, Joe married Barbara Adele Greene of Providence, R.I. in 1951 and they had their first son, Robert. Wanting to return to the East Coast, Joe chose The Baltimore Sun because it had foreign and Washington Bureaus. He began a 44-year career with The Sun in 1953.

Joe worked as a police reporter, rose to night rewrite on the city desk and then was sent to Annapolis to cover the General Assembly. His second and third sons, Paul and Edward, were born in Baltimore. At the age of 28, he was sent to London to cover the sunset of the British Empire as a foreign correspondent. His fourth son, Adam was born in London. He then did two six-month assignments reporting on the decolonization of the African continent. Joe was actually shot at while riding in a US Army helicopter during the Congo Crisis. In the 1960s, Joe moved to The Sun’s Washington bureau and covered the US Senate during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, was called on to write John F. Kennedy’s obituary the day he was assassinated and reported on the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act. Joe’s fifth son, Lee, was born in Chevy Chase, Md. Joe was then transferred to The Sun’s Bonn office in West Germany and covered the Cold War, the failed Czechoslovakian Revolution of 1968 and Black September in Jordan. Returning to Baltimore in 1972, Joe was appointed editorial page editor, a position that he held for the next 24 years. During his tenure he promoted the revival of the Inner Harbor and worked with Mayor Schaefer to save the General Motors plant and its thousands of jobs on Broening Highway from closure in 1980. The plant stayed open until 2005.

Joe is survived by 15 grandchildren and mourned the loss of his sixteenth grandchild, Henry. Joe was extremely fond of his daughters-in-law, Anna, Rosanne, Lori and Jennifer. Joe has 13 great-grandchildren with two more on the way. Joe was a lover of dogs: Mary Queen of Scots, Sardi, Julie, Sunday, Licorice, Keri and Nellie. He liked to hike and listen to opera.

Please send contributions in his name to Lehigh University.

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