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Henry Stone, 97; executive was fond of technology

Mr. Stone was a Dover selectman from 1957-1964.

Mr. Stone was a Dover selectman from 1957-1964.

Fascinated by new inventions, Henry Stone rented a Segway two summers ago, when he was 95.

One morning, while still in his pajamas, he rode it to the end of his driveway to pick up the newspaper. On another occasion he rode it to a nearby tennis game, but when his daughter asked if he thought Segways would be a good mode of transportation for the elderly, Mr. Stone said he didn’t think most could handle getting on and off.

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He had always liked to try innovations, though. Decades ago, when stores first sold TVs, Mr. Stone was an early customer, and he was quick to purchase computers when they became available. While in his 80s, he wrote a self-published autobiography on his computer, and he had a GPS in his car before his son even heard of the navigation system.

Mr. Stone, a longtime insurance executive, died of pancreatic cancer May 15 in his Dover home, where he had lived for 67 years. He was 97.

He began his career in the insurance business in the late 1930s when he joined what was then Employers Group, a company led by his father, Edward, a former state senator who died in 1964. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Mr. Stone returned to the company, and he was selected in 1951 to participate in an advanced management program at the Henley College in England.

In 1972, Mr. Stone was named president and chief executive of what, through mergers, had become Employers Commercial Union. He retired four years later, when the company had changed its name to Commercial Union Insurance.

Through the decades, he held positions including territorial supervisor for business west of Mississippi and general manager in the company’s New England department. Although hired when his father was president of the company, “he was very proud of the fact that he worked his way up,” said his son, Henry Jr. of Weston.

“He paid attention to everybody and made everyone feel special,” said his daughter Jeannette Reynolds of Dover. “That was his strength.”

Henry Sawyer Stone was born and grew up in Lexington. He graduated in 1934 from Middlesex School in Concord, where he learned to ride a unicycle and juggle.

Four years later he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Harvard College, where he was part of the flying club. Although he didn’t pursue a career in engineering, Mr. Stone made wood furniture as a hobby throughout his life.

After college he began working at Employers Group and went to London for training. While in Europe, he realized war was inevitable, so he volunteered for the Navy when he returned home.

He met his future wife, Jean Richmond of Milton, on the tennis courts in Milton. They shared a passion for tennis and skiing, and their marriage in 1941 was followed by a honeymoon ski trip to Mont Tremblant in Canada.

From 1941 until 1945, Mr. Stone was an officer, pilot, and flight instructor in the Navy. Returning home after the war, Mr. Stone met his oldest daughter for the first time. His son, who was born shortly before he left for the Navy, at first called his father “Uncle Henry.”

Beginning in the early days of skiing in New England and continuing for 65 years, Mr. Stone skied down the challenging trails at Mad River Glen in Fayston, Vt., where he built a log cabin filled with furniture he had made. Mr. Stone, who skied until he was in his early 90s, also built houses in Dover and Little Compton, R.I.

When he retired in 1976, Mr. Stone traveled extensively with his wife. She enjoyed taking nature photographs, especially of alpine plants and animals in Alaska.

He often told his children that she “dragged him along,” his son said, “although I know he loved it.”

Mr. Stone had traveled often for work, but on those trips “the whole world looked like a hotel lobby,” his son said. “So once he retired he was eager to see the places he had been to.”

Jean Stone, who died in 2006, was an avid environmentalist who influenced her husband to become a conservationist. The couple bought acres of land in Dover and donated the area to the town for preservation.

He was a Dover selectman from 1957 until 1964, and often spoke out about issues. Mr. Stone’s children said he had an ability to think and speak on his feet, traits they say he inherited from his father, but he always wrote down his ideas in orders to avoid wasting anyone’s time.

A planner who left nothing to chance, Mr. Stone asked his son to write his obituary so he could read it and offer input.

A service has been held for Mr. Stone, who in addition to his son and daughter leaves another daughter, Olivia Arnold of Dover; a sister, Kitty White of Concord; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

An ocean-racing sailor and navigator, Mr. Stone participated in yacht races in New England and Bermuda. He also raced ice boats in New England and in Canada, Finland, and Russia, and served as secretary of the New England Ice Yacht Association.

At the Sakonnet Golf Club in Little Compton, R.I., Mr. Stone was known as the creator of new tournaments, and he played his final round of golf last summer.

Michele Richinick
can be reached at mrichinick@gmail.com.

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