Christopher W. Roberts

    Christopher William Roberts, an accomplished naturalist and musician and founder of Gardens East, a landscape design business, died at home in East Hampton on Aug. 18 following a pulmonary illness. He was 61.

    Mr. Roberts “could identify every bird” and name plants by their Latin designations, said his brother, Don Roberts of Brookhaven. “He loved nature,” Mr. Roberts said.

    He was an enthusiastic participant in the Christmas bird count in Montauk and led nature hikes for the South Fork Natural History Society and the Peconic Land Trust.

    As a part-time naturalist for the East Hampton Town Department of Natural Resources from 1988 to 2008, he helped with the department’s program of tick study and abatement.

    He had a keen sense of the natural world, said his brother. “While out with him on a winter’s day in Vermont, Chris, field glasses to his eyes, told me, ‘Keep your eyes on the birds. What happens to them happens to you down the road.’ ”

    At Nassau Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in theater arts and appeared in a play, “We the People,” along with Billy Crystal, he was elected freshman class president and selected for listing in Who’s Who in Junior Colleges. Mr. Roberts also earned an associate’s degree in horticulture from Ulster Community College.

    During his time upstate, he had a natural foods restaurant in New Paltz, his brother said.

    Born in Rockville Centre on March 25, 1952, he was a son of Donald F. and Audrey J. Roberts. His mother, of Naples, Fla., survives.

    The family lived in Massapequa, where Mr. Roberts graduated from Massapequa High School in 1970, but had a summer house on Three Mile Harbor. After high school, Mr. Roberts attended St. Pious Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale for a year.

    Mr. Roberts moved to East Hampton full time in 1978 and established Gardens East. He was certified in plant pathology through the Cornell Cooperative Extension, his brother said.

    A bass guitarist who also collected guitars, he performed locally with several bands over the years, including the Core and later the Midnight Express. He composed and performed music for “Living With Nature,” a video series shown on East Hampton’s public access provider, LTV, and produced and recorded radio spots called “Nature Minutes” for SoFo, which aired on the Sag Harbor radio station WLNG from 1991 through 2003.

    On the former Southampton College radio station WPBX, Mr. Roberts was the D.J. on a Sunday night jazz show from 1988 through the ’90s and, his brother said, never failed to include a track from the Miles Davis album “Kind of Blue.”

    Wielding his Stratocaster guitar “at every wedding in our family,” his brother said, “Chris never missed an opportunity to get up onstage and do a rollicking version of ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ ”

    A marriage in 1984 to Christa Jan Ryan ended several years ago in divorce. The couple’s two children, Macartney Roberts of Eugene, Ore., and Benjamin Roberts of Williamstown, Mass., survive their father.
    Besides his brother, two sisters, Penny Dauch of Naples and Donna Ciminera of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., also survive.

    Mr. Roberts was cremated. The family plans a private service this fall. Memorial donations have been suggested to the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center, P.O. Box 455, Bridgehampton 11932.