A celebration of the life of H. Virgil Sherrill—a longtime summer resident of Southampton and former president of Shinnecock Hills Golf Course—will be held on Saturday, May 22, at 5 p.m. at the family home at 217 Pond Lane in Southampton.
Mr. Sherrill died on January 20 at his home in Hobe Sound, Florida, surrounded by family.
Mr. Sherrill first came to Southampton in 1952, renting the Gilmartin House on Herrick Road and buying a house on Pond Lane in 1958. The Pond Lane home was built in 1900 by the architectural firm Carrere and Hastings for Secretary of War Elihu Root, husband of Ruth Salem Wales, whose parents were among earliest members of the Southampton summer colony.
Born in 1920 in Merryville, Louisiana, a small town on the Texas-Louisiana border, he lived during his childhood in various other small southern towns until, following his father’s death, his mother settled in Biloxi, Mississippi. In Mississippi, Mr. Sherrill attended the Gulf Coast Military Academy, graduating as the leading cadet in his class. He then attended a post graduate year at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, after which he entered Yale College, graduating in 1942.
Immediately following college, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Service, serving as a pilot on the USS Wasp in the South Pacific. He was an ace, shooting down nine Japanese planes in aerial combat (six in one day), and decimating a Japanese destroyer by dropping a bomb down its stack on a strafing mission, family recalled from the stories Mr. Sherrill would tell. He received the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.
Mr. Sherrill earned a degree from Yale Law School in 1948 and moved to New York City, where he joined the Wall Street firm Shields & Company, founded by Paul Shields, a summer resident of Southampton. After becoming a managing partner of the firm in 1958, he transformed the company into an international firm with the acquisition of Model Roland International. In 1977 he merged Shields Model Roland with Bache Halsey Stuart Inc., and was named president of Bache Halsey Stuart Shields. Then, in 1982, Bache was acquired by the Prudential Life Insurance Company of America and became Prudential Bache Securities and then simply Prudential Securities, of which Mr. Sherrill was vice chairman and then senior director until his retirement in 2000.
Mr. Sherrill was honored as the B’nai B’rith Wall Street Man of the Year and served as the chairman of the Securities Industry Association.
Throughout his professional career, Mr. Sherrill was also involved in philanthropic activities, serving on the board of managers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and as vice chairman and president of Memorial Hospital. He also served on the board of trustees of the Boys Club of New York, taking a leading role in the creation of the Annual Sports Hall of Fame Dinner, which honored each year’s inductees into the Halls of Fame of major sports. In addition, he was a generous patron to Southampton Hospital and to St. Andrew’s Dune Church.
An avid amateur golfer, he served as president of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club from 1972 until 1980. He was responsible for bringing the Walker Cup to Shinnecock in 1977 and was instrumental in organizing the U.S. Open at Shinnecock in 1986, nearly a hundred years after it had first been played there. Although unable to play the game of golf in his last years, Mr. Sherrill insisted on retaining his membership at both Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and the National Golf Links of America in Southampton; the Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, California; Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida; and The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland. He was also a member of The Meadow Club and the Southampton Bathing Corporation, as well as the Racket and Tennis Club and the Brook Club, both in New York City.
Mr. Sherrill is survived by his wife Betty Sherrill, the long-time president of McMillen, Inc., the oldest interior design firm in America—her gardens on Pond Lane have been on view for numerous garden tours over the years. He is also survived by a daughter, Ann Pyne and a son, Stephen Sherrill, both of whom maintain houses in Southampton; and five grandchildren, Elizabeth Pyne, John Pyne Jr., Stephen Sherrill Jr., William Sherrill and Katherine Sherrill.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the St. Andrew’s Dune Church, P.O. Box 1245, Southampton, N.Y., 11969 would be appreciated by the family.