John Corwith White Jr. died at his home in Sagaponack on Tuesday, May 21st with his family by his side. He was 91. Mr. White, who was known as “Red” was born on December 18, 1921 to John C. White Sr. and Aulis Ena Tuthill Tillotson White. He attended the Sagaponack school through the 8th grade and graduated from Bridgehampton High School in 1939. He was the eleventh generation of his family to live in Sagaponack.
Fascinated with flying from an early age, he hitchhiked to Conneticut while in high school, purchased and then flew back a Piper Cub airplane using a road map for navigation. He attended flight engineering school at Mitchel Field in Uniondale, N.Y. Upon graduation from flight school, he tried to enlist for the war but was turned down for service because of color blindness. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by American Airlines as a flight engineer in the Air Transport Command. The flights delivered supplies to the European theater and carried back wounded. That assignment lasted three years.
Though Red’s first love was flying, eventually he returned to take over the family farm when his father became ill and died in 1946. He and his farm helpers raised potatoes, cucumbers for pickles, did custom grain harvesting and baling, and built and engineered equipment to do the same.
In 1947, he married Elizabeth Jean Chambers of Long Branch, New Jersey who he met while she was visiting her family in Sagaponack.
In 1954, he joined the Bridgehampton Fire Department where he served as captain of both Packard and Rescue Companies, before becoming department chief in the mid 1980s. In 1999, the Town of Southampton recognized Mr. White’s 45 years of exemplary service to the volunteer fire service with a special proclamation. He continued as an active member attending meetings until recently.
Mr. White also served on numerous boards including Cornell Cooperative Extension and Sagaponack School. He was a member of the choir and Trustee of Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church and co-chaired the restoration of the sanctuary there in 1964.
Mr. White always cared about the land and served on the first local land use committee in 1957. His gift of 11 acres enabled the establishment of the northern portion of the Sagaponack Swamp Preserve, now held by the Nature Conservancy. He served as a director of the South Fork Land Foundation for more than 30 years. In 2007 Mr. and Mrs. White were recognized by the Peconic Land Trust, Sagaponack Village, Town of Southampton, Suffolk County and the State of New York for their commitment, patience and perseverence in sucessfully protecting the bulk of their Sagaponack family farm from future development and preserving it for future generations.
He was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Elizabeth Jean Chambers White in 2011 and is survived by four children, John N. White, Barbara White Ford, Jeffery White and Thomas White and one grandchild, Eliza Topham-White.
Visitation hours with the family are 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, May 30 at the Brockett Funeral Home Southampton. A firefighter’s service will be held at 7:30 p.m. A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m., Saturday, June 1, at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, 2429 Montauk Highway. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Organ Fund of the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 3038, Bridgehampton, NY 11932-3038 or to East End Hospice P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978