Robert Willis Espach, who was an attorney for more than 50 years, died of complications of cancer at Stony Brook University Hospital on Saturday. He was 84.
Mr. Espach, who lived in Sag Harbor Village for 57 years, was in general practice, mostly family and real estate law. He remained at work through his illness.
He moved to Sag Harbor in 1957, after two years in the Army, which involved serving at the Army’s European headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. Mr. Espach started his law practice in Southampton but later opened an office as a single practitioner in Sag Harbor, where, among other clients, he represented the Sag Harbor School District in connection with its first bond issue.
After several years, he became a partner with Bryan Hamlin and Ben Michael in Bridgehampton, where he practiced until 1977. He then returned to working as a sole practitioner in Sag Harbor, finally closing his office on 25 Washington Street in 1999 and joining with Stephen A. Grossman and Associates in an “of counsel” capacity.
A lifelong Long Islander, Mr. Espach was born in Floral Park on April 1, 1930, the first child of Edgar W. Espach and Helen Petrat Espach. A graduate of Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Hofstra University in 1952 and a law degree at Brooklyn Law School in 1955.
Mr. Espach wed Dorothy M. Collins in 1954. They were married for 54 years, until her death in 2008. They had one son, Steven R. Espach, who survives.
A Presbyterian, he was christened by his grandfather the Rev. Augustus C. Espach at St. Paul’s German Presbyterian Church in Elmont, the church in which he would later be married.
He served as a deacon, trustee, and elder at the Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor, and was the church school superintendent and clerk of Session for many years. He also served as a trustee of the Presbytery of Long Island, president of its trustees, and as the trustees’ recording clerk for more than 30 years.
Mr. Espach was a member of the Sag Harbor Lions Club for roughly 50 years, serving as secretary and treasurer for much of that time. He was president of the club for a year and led many committees, including one to organize and secure tax exemption for the Sag Harbor Lions Club Charitable Trust. After his time as president, he continued to serve as secretary or treasurer of the club, and finally as secretary treasurer.
He was director and a trustee of the Sag Harbor Historical Society, as well as trustee and secretary of the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum. For several years he was a secretary of the Masons’ Wamponamon Lodge in Sag Harbor. A longtime member of the Bridgehampton Club, he was also a member of the New York State and Suffolk County Bar Associations.
Visiting hours were yesterday. A funeral will be held today at the Old Whalers Church at 11 a.m. Mr. Espach’s ashes will be buried at Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor tomorrow, at a time to be announced at the funeral.
His family has suggested memorial donations to the Old Whalers Church, P.O. Box 1241, Sag Harbor 11963, the Sag Harbor Lions Club Charitable Trust, P.O. Box 158, Sag Harbor, or the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, 322 Eighth Avenue, Seventh Floor, New York City 10001.