Robert Edwards Vetault

Jan. 26, 1925 - May 8, 2012

    Robert Edwards Vetault, the longtime owner of Vetault Flowers (now Wittendale’s) on Newtown Lane, East Hampton, died in Arizona on May 8 at the age of 87. Mr. Vetault was one of the last generation of Bonackers to be born at home, in a house right next to the nursery.
    An only child, he was born on Jan. 26, 1925, to Louis R. Vetault and Essie Vetault, whose maiden name was Edwards.
    “Dad would usually clarify this with ‘The Springs Edwardses, not the Amagansett Edwardses,’ ” said his daughter Sarah Vetault of Tucson, at whose home he died.
    Mr. Vetault went to Yale after graduating from East Hampton High School, but interrupted his studies to enlist in the Marines after the start of World War II. He rose to the rank of second lieutenant, serving in the Mediterranean theater as a field artillery officer.
    He returned to Yale in 1946, graduating three years later as a member of the class of 1945W. The W indicated that his education had been punctuated by the war.
    At college, he double-majored in English and history while studying simultaneously at the Graduate School of Drama, where he became president of the Yale Dramat. Under his leadership, the society presented the American premiere of Camus’s “Caligula.”
    From 1947 to 1951 he was a senior editor of Theatre Arts Monthly. In 1951 the Marines recalled him for service in the Korean War. He received his second honorable discharge in 1952, when he returned to East Hampton to run the family flower shop.
    Mr. Vetault was active in civic affairs and in local government. An East Hampton Village Fire Department volunteer from the moment he came home from Korea, he served two terms on the town board and over the years was a member of the village’s planning board and design review board as well. He was the vice chairman of Guild Hall for years, and a longtime warden at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
    When the town acquired a former naval radio station on Bluff Road in Amagansett and converted it into the East Hampton Town Marine Museum, Mr. Vetault played an influential role.
    On Feb. 21, 1953, he married the former Dorothy Vulkoff. They had three daughters, all of whom survive. Besides Ms. Vetault, they are Lisa Odon of Broken Arrow, Okla., and Robin Pollack of Las Vegas.
    “He strongly identified with the Bonackers of Springs,” said Sarah Vetault. Her father “used to take us birdwatching,” she added. “We would drive on the beach looking for birds, whales, everything. We used to go to kettleholes to watch salamanders.”
    Mr. Vetault, who loved to watch the New York Giants on television, retired in 1983 after selling the nursery. Afterward, he took up nature photography, and gave several talks for the Nature Conservancy, focusing in particular on horseshoe crabs and piping plovers.
    In 1994, the Vetaults left their East Hampton home to move to Arizona, but then moved in 2003 to Las Vegas, where Mr. Vetault played a major role in arranging the financing and construction of a new parish center for Grace in the Desert Episcopal Church.
    Mrs. Vetault died in 2004. Mr. Vetault moved back to Tucson about six years later. Besides his daughters, he leaves four grandchildren.
    He was cremated. His ashes will be buried in the family plot at Cedar Lawn Cemetery, sometime in the fall. The family has suggested memorial donations for the East Hampton Town Baymen’s Association, Box 498, Amagansett 11930.