East Hampton Village Trustee Elbert Edwards Dies at 71

Elbert T. Edwards, far left, at an East Hampton Fire Department dinner in April, died last Thursday. Michael Heller

Elbert T. Edwards, a member of the East Hampton Village Board since 1977 and a 12th-generation member of one of East Hampton's original families, died of cancer last Thursday in Southampton. He was 71.

"There will never be another Elbert," Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said yesterday. "I considered him a valued personal friend who deeply loved and cared for his family and friends in the community."

"Elbert was a wonderful person. I was very fond of him," said Barbara Borsack, a fellow board member. Ms. Borsack, who knew Mr. Edwards since she was a child, said he was "a great member of the board because of his institutional knowledge. He remembered everything -- he could remember exactly why things were done, when they were done, why decisions were made the way they were. That was so helpful when you're trying to figure things out. He will be dearly missed on the board, that's for sure."

"He was passionate about his love for the Village of East Hampton," said East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who served as village administrator for 31 years. Mr. Edwards had been chairman of the town's zoning board of appeals before becoming a village trustee. "He had great knowledge of planning and zoning, and was instrumental in the village's adoption of the updated comprehensive plan and many of the zoning changes that came from that," Mr. Cantwell said.

Elbert T. Edwards was born on March 14, 1945, in Southampton to Louis T. Edwards, an electrician who also served as a village trustee, and the former Marion Latham. He grew up in East Hampton, graduating from high school in 1964 before earning a degree in engineering from the State University at Morrisville.

He served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. "Elbert never spoke much about it," Mayor Rickenbach said, "but we would talk about that on occasion."

Mr. Edwards's love of horses was evident. After graduating from the State University, he studied blacksmithing at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. With Rusty Leaver, he began mucking out stalls for the late Phineas Dickinson at the Deep Hollow Ranch stables in Montauk around 1959, according to a 1974 profile in The Star, and he eventually owned the stables and oversaw the 35 acres of pastureland south of Montauk Highway known as the Deep Hollow lot. He also managed the nearby Startop Ranch, known for its thoroughbreds.

"Out in the back there," he said in the 1974 profile, "you can't see anything but open country, 3,000 acres of state and county parks — it's very untypical of Long Island." Mr. Edwards, according to the profile, had "a Bonac accent you could cut with a knife."

Mr. Edwards and Hedwig Bates Nightingale, who is known as Heddie, were married on Jan. 24, 1987, in a candlelight ceremony at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church. She survives.

Mr. Edwards was an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, serving as a post commander. He was also a president of the South End Cemetery Association, and a member of the Mayflower Society and the Lost Tribe of Accabonac. He had been a trustee of the East Hampton Presbyterian Church and the East Hampton Historical Society.

"He enjoyed a good laugh," the mayor said. "He loved discussing history, local and national, as well as finance and folklore, and he did it with equal aplomb."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Edwards is survived by a daughter, Pember Edwards, and a sister, Harriet Edwards, both of East Hampton.

A memorial service is scheduled for Nov. 19 at 11 a.m. at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church. His family has suggested memorial contributions to the church, 120 Main Street, East Hampton 11937, or the East Hampton Village Ambulance Association, 1 Cedar Street, East Hampton 11937.