Obituary of Helen White
Helen Bishop White died June 24, 2017, at her home in Peconic Landing in Greenport. She was 99.
Born December 30, 1917, in her family homestead to William Woolley Bishop and Florence Alma (Jagger) Bishop, Mrs. White descended from a lineage of many early English settlers of Southampton. Educated in Southampton’s public schools, she continued her studies attending Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English.
Soon, there was a proposal of marriage from her high school sweetheart, then Captain Thomas Howard White Jr. They married in Southampton November 28, 1942, while Mr. White was on a 10-day leave from his Army base in San Francisco, before deployment to the Pacific front during World War II.
Mrs. White and her first born child resided in Santa Barbara, California, while Mr. White fought for his country in the South Pacific.
Returning home to Southampton, the couple established residence at the Bishop homestead on Clearview Farm, meeting the immediate challenge of harvesting that year’s crops after the sudden death of Helen’s father, William Bishop. Mrs. White gave birth to two more children (sons Thomas and William), while her husband continued to farm, cultivating and marketing produce grown at Clearview Farm.
Mrs. White was a great lover of music and literature, and was committed to providing a college education for her three children. She went back to school for her teaching degree, eventually earning a master’s degree in elementary education. She started her teaching career in Westhampton Beach, and after a few years there transferred her teaching responsibilities to first and second grade in the Southampton public school system, for 20-plus years, eventually retiring in 1976. Fondly remembered by her students, Mrs. White remained in contact with many for decades following.
While achieving her goal of private college education for her children, she also found the time and energy to actively participate in Southampton’s community. She and her husband loved to dance and were founding members of the Cotillion Club of Southampton. Their love of boating led to the formation, with other local families, of the Bull Head Yacht Club. She was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, the Southampton Historical Society and served several years on the board of Southampton Hospital.
Mrs. White loved the great outdoors and the invigorating exercise it provided. Regular family hikes in surrounding woodlands to “secret destinations” of Split Rock, Camps Pond, Priscilla Pond, Jessups Neck and others, replete with plant and bird identification on the side, was one of her favorite activities. Through her intimate knowledge and love of Jessups Neck, and affiliation with Elizabeth Morton, Mrs. White was a major influence in preservation and establishment of the Morton Wildlife Refuge.
A former member of the Southampton Golf Club, she also found time for swimming, boating, tennis, sledding and ice skating. Her children remember a time she took them for a late autumn swim in the ocean, only to find a farm field puddle to skate on the very next week.
After their retirement, Mr. and Mrs. White purchased a travel trailer and toured many areas of the U.S. After satisfying their wanderlust, they purchased a second home in Englewood, Florida, where they spent many winters continuing to swim, golf and host visiting family and friends. A good portion of the remaining calendar year would find them back at Clearview Farm surrounded by an ever-increasing family of grandchildren and great-grand children.
Predeceased by her husband, Thomas, in 1993; and a brother, James, in 2011, Mrs. White is survived by a daughter, Susan Burke of Greenport; a son, Thomas and wife Jeanne of Southampton; a son, William and wife Lin of Southampton and Palm Beach; two sisters, Amy Mihalik of Greenport, and Jane Seabury and husband Donald of Southampton. She is also survived by eight grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren, all of whom have come to know and love her as the matriarch of the family.
In honor of Mrs. White’s lifelong interest in local history and environment, memorial donations may be made to the Morton Wildlife Refuge, the Southampton Historical Society or the First Presbyterian Church of Southampton.
Visitation will be Friday, June 30, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton. A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 1, at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Southampton.