Community mourns death of retired NY fire chief

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By Laura Blasey
Newsday

GREENPORT, N.Y. — No one knew Greenport better than Bob White.

“You could ask him who owned the third house on the left on Second Street way back when,” his daughter, Marilyn Corwin of Greenport, said. “He knew the history.”

White, one of Greenport’s most active community leaders and a former chief of its fire department, died at home Dec. 28 after suffering complications from congestive heart failure, his daughter said. He was 90.

Greenport was White’s whole life, from his family to his career, friends and family said.

White was born in his family’s Greenport home in 1926. He attended Greenport High School, where he met his wife, Lillian, on the school bus when they were 15.

The only time White ever left the village he loved was to join the Army in 1944, Corwin said. White fought on the ground in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He left the service in 1946.

When he returned to Long Island, he took over his father’s hardware store on Main Street and joined the fire department, becoming its chief in 1955 and serving for three years.

“My mom and my dad were both very involved,” Corwin said. “They really believed in volunteerism.”

White took on a number of roles around Greenport. He was a village trustee, on the board of the library and an active member of the local American Legion chapter. He was deeply involved with the local historical society and was a founding member of Greenport’s Railroad Museum of Long Island.

“Everybody knew Bob White,” said Don Fisher, 63, the museum’s current president.

Fisher, of Southold, said he met White through the local fire departments. The two bonded over their interest in protecting their communities, and also over trains.

“He was just the most gentlest, kindest, friendly guy,” Fisher said. “He’d do anything for you that he could and he just loved that village.”

If it snowed in Greenport, White would be the first to start clearing it from Main Street, shoveling the snow from his store first thing in the morning, said Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. If there was a question about a historic event in the village, or a neighbor in need of home improvement assistance, locals called White.

Hubbard said White’s death has left a void in the community, especially within the fire department, where White was always a friendly face for firefighters young and old. In February, the village honored White for 70 years of service to the fire department.

“Even after he retired from the store, he’d have his coffee at the firehouse every morning,” Hubbard said. “There are certain names synonymous with Greenport and Bob was one of those people.”

Lillian White died in 2014. Bob White is survived by Corwin and two sons, Robert White Jr. of Hayes, Virginia, and David White of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; as well as five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Memorial services for White were held in Greenport Dec. 30 and 31. He was buried at St. Agnes Cemetery.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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