Elizabeth L. White, Tried and True Montauker

July 10, 1940 - Oct. 10, 2016
July 10, 1940 - Oct. 10, 2016

Elizabeth Lee White, a Montauk Historical Society president for 20 years who was a charter member of the Montauk Lighthouse Committee when it took over stewardship of the Light, died on Oct. 10 at the age of 76.

Known as Betsy, Ms. White was the vice president of the historical society at the time of her death. Her family said she died at Southampton Hospital after being stricken at a historical society dinner that night. 

She was born on July 10, 1940, in Detroit to Lester A. Lee and the former Elizabeth Harris. She graduated from Redford High School in that city and obtained a degree in education at the University of Florida.

 Ms. White came to Montauk with friends in 1961 to spend a summer working at the Montauk Manor. She met her future husband, Dick White Jr., that summer, and the couple married in 1963. She subsequently taught seventh and eighth-grade English at the Montauk School from 1964 to 1966 and, with her husband, was an owner of White’s Liquor Store. The couple divorced in 1991.

 Ms. White also was the founder of the Lighthouse gift shop, which began as a small room in the Lighthouse itself and was later expanded. She was also a deacon and assistant treasurer of the Montauk Community Church.

One of Ms. White’s sons, Rick White of Montauk, said he will remember his mother’s strong will. “She had a lot of different setbacks, and it never seemed to hold her back,” he said. “It almost seemed to make her work harder and persevere.”

Ms. White was a history buff who enjoyed traveling and had been to Europe, India, Morocco, Greece, Australia, and Hong Kong, among other places.

“Betsy was a force,” Catherine Ecker Flanagan, a friend, wrote on the Montauk Historical Society website. “Straightforward and intelligent, she was a person who didn’t tiptoe through life. She was always willing to back up her belief with lots of hard work.”

In addition to her son Rick White, Ms. White is survived by another son, Lee White of Montauk, a daughter, Heather Saskas of Sag Harbor, and six grandchildren.

The Rev. Bill Hoffman of the Montauk Community Church, who had known Ms. White well, officiated at a service there on Saturday. Rick White and Greg Donahue of Montauk also spoke. She was buried at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton.

The family has suggested memorial donations to the Montauk Community Church, P.O. Box 698, Montauk 11954, or to the Montauk Lighthouse, for which information can be found online at montauklighthouse.com/donate.

 “Our town has lost one of our greatest champions,” Ms. Flanagan’s tribute  says.