Earl W Sutton, 90, Ponca City oilman, died in the company of his loving family in Stillwater on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023 after COVID-19.
Raised in Crafton, a suburb of Pittsburgh, he was a tall skinny blue eyed kid nicknamed Bud. His family would often visit an oil well pump site to picnic with many cousins. As a teen he worked to help complete a successful oil well owned by an uncle. Earl fell in love with finding oil. He enjoyed the hunt with a passion. He liked the way crude oil smelled and tasted.
In 1952 polio took the muscles of his left leg while working as an intern in a hot Texas oilfield. While rehabbing at the D.T. Watson Home for Crippled Children in Pittsburgh, he was the oldest patient at age 20. Earl would help organize the polio children activities. The children rallied to him as their leader and called him "Captain Polio". Earl took part in the first trials, administered by the developer of the polio vaccine Dr. Jonas Salk. A risky proposition, they were selected as they were already suffering from the disease.
Earl graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Petroleum Engineering. He accepted an offer from Conoco Research & Development and specialized in electrical oil well logging and geology. His sister Sue followed from Pittsburgh a few years later to work at Conoco and later married Forrest Mertz.
In 1957 Earl met the love of his life, the beautiful and kind Lavon Lloyd of Pawhuska. Lavon graduated with a BS from Oklahoma A&M and moved to Ponca City to teach second grade at Liberty School in 1957. They were married in Pawhuska on Aug. 8, 1958, a marriage that lasted 54 years.
Earl enjoyed the Conoco Ponca City life and made close life-long friends. Earl and Lavon once hosted a "Day of the Dolphin'' espionage themed party. Earl mailed anonymous invitations that he created ransom note style, made from individual clippings of letters or words glued to a piece of paper. The invitations stated disguise required. Earl created a chain of challenges and clues that revealed a party located at the end of El Camino; a house with a heavy brass dolphin door knocker Lavon purchased in Malta.
Earl's work at Conoco took Lavon and their three kids to Tripoli, Libya and Singapore, and many points in between. Earl explored for oil in the Sahara desert and South China Sea. The family returned to Ponca City in 1975. Earl left Conoco and ventured into oil and gas exploration on his own. Earl and later Lavon, made multiple trips to remote parts of Russia as an oil consultant, just for the adventure.
Earl never emphasized his handicap. He wore a full metal leg brace that made a recognizable clicking sound as he walked. He played softball, and loved traveling, swimming, snorkeling, socializing with friends, sand sculpting on the beach, canoeing and fishing clear water streams using hellgrammites. He courageously braved skiing at the Winter Park Adaptive Ski School.
Earl was intelligent, funny, kind; a perfect father. He enjoyed singing in the choir. He sang in a men's choir that performed at Madison garden where they received a standing ovation. He loved making PowerPoint presentations for his Young Couple Literary Guild friends to show-off his "savvy" computer skills.
Earl had a great sense of humor, as evident in his skit writing for First Presbyterian productions of "Rolling In the Aisles" and the annual Poncan Theater fundraiser, "Taste and Tasteless". In 1993, Earl wrote an original musical play with Leslie Rardin, "The Gift of Willie Cry" performed for the Cherokee Strip centennial at the Poncan theater. The play portrayed the story of another oilman from Pittsburgh, E.W. Marland and his first oil strike on land leased from Willie Cry, a Ponca tribe member. The play depicts how the oil strike affected the development of Ponca City. Scenes range from a campfire on the Kansas line in 1893, syncopated rhythmic scenes of a pumping oil well, to a party in the Marland Mansion in 1928.
He will be greatly missed. Earl was predeceased by his father, mother, sister Phyllis of Pittsburgh, PA, and his wife Lavon.
Earl is survived by his sister Sue Mertz of Ponca City, daughter Polly and husband Joe Vosilla of Deerfield Beach, FL., daughter Stacey of Denver, CO., son Eddie and wife Veronica of Stillwater, the parent's of Earl's three grandchildren Riley of Denver, Cody of Stillwater, and Sabrina of Melbourne, Australia.
Also survived by nieces Robin, Molly, Beth, Mindy, Terri, and Rhonda. Nephews Gary, Dale, Andy, Blaine, Clint, and Bart. No funeral service will be held.
In lieu of flowers the family wishes contributions to be made to the Ponca City Meals-On-Wheels Inc. Care of Connie Petersen 8280 East South Ave, Ponca City, OK 74604.