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Jan 25, 2011 6:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Trustee Norman Conklin Edwards Dies At 64

Jan 25, 2011 6:03 PM

Norman Conklin Edwards Jr. would tell of a subtle transformation he underwent in the late 1980s, according to Lynn Mendelman, one of his fellow East Hampton Town Trustees. At the time, Mr. Edwards was the commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, and President Ronald Reagan had spent several hours aboard, eating with the crew and learning about the ship. At the end of the visit, the president surprised Mr. Edwards with a resounding “Thank you” for the tour. From then on, Ms. Mendelman said, Mr. Edwards ended every conversation the same way.

“It was a big part of his psyche that whenever he said goodbye to somebody he said ‘thank you’ instead,” she said. “He’d look you straight in the eye and go ‘thank you.’ You were a part of his life and you knew it. He lived for the moment.”

Mr. Edwards died late Wednesday, January 19, at his home in Amagansett, leaving behind stories garnered from a life at sea, as a Coast Guard captain, a commercial fisherman, a Trustee and a member of the 12th generation of a family of East Hampton fisherman and whalers. He was 64, and had battled a brain tumor for the last two years.

A native of Amagansett, Mr. Edwards joined the Coast Guard in 1968 after attending the Coast Guard Academy and retired in 1998 as a captain. In the intervening years, he moved around the country, serving as commander of four ships and assisting in almost 150 rescues, according to his son, Samuel, 34, a Coast Guard lieutenant who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Mr. Edwards finally settled back in Amagansett in 2002, building a house next to the home of his mother, Elsie Edwards, who survives him. He also leaves behind a wife, Lynda, two siblings, Linda Baker and Bruce Edwards, another son, Zachariah, who lives in Juneau, Alaska, two daughters, Elan Eddington and Sarai Timothy, who live in Tokyo, Japan and Juneau, respectively, and 11 grandchildren.

When asked about his proudest moments in the Coast Guard, Samuel Edwards said his father would recall a time on the Vigorous, when he was leading a search off the coast of Venezuela and decided to use sweep width tables he helped develop years earlier, while he was working at the Coast Guard Research and Development Center. The object of the search—a Venezuelan fishing crew—ended up smack in the middle of the search pattern.

“He wrote that down as one of his greatest moments in the Coast Guard,” Samuel Edwards said. The search pattern, he added, was still in use when he was working at the Research and Development Center a couple of years ago.

Mr. Edwards fulfilled his lifelong dream of fishing commercially when he returned to Amagansett, buying a 40-foot stern trawler, The Petrel, that he docked in Three Mile Harbor and took out into Gardiner’s Bay 150 days each year, according to his family. One of his disappointments, according to his son, was that he never got the chance to fish with his father, Norman Edwards Sr., who died in a boating accident in 1997. Still, he got to return to the region he considered his home.

“He grew up there, he played stickball with his cousins there and went fishing and hunting and really grew to love the Island,” Samuel Edwards said, “And that’s where he wanted to go back to. That’s always been his goal, to go back to Long Island and fish with his dad.”

After Mr. Edwards was first elected a Trustee in 2005, colleagues said they grew to regard him as an intelligent man who applied his considerable maritime expertise to his stewardship of the town’s waterways and coastlines. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in oceanography, and took up the causes of reviving the dwindling local winter flounder population and dredging the town’s waterways.

“He was incredibly smart, he was intelligent,” said Clerk of the Trustees Diane McNally. “He was very well-spoken. He had an air about him of calm confidence.”

Ms. McNally recalled a Town Board meeting in Montauk two or three years ago, at which Mr. Edwards was speaking about dredging issues. The Town Board invited him to sit with them at the head of the room, she said—an unusual honor. “It was amazing the way his presence in a room would affect people,” Ms. McNally said. “If he spoke, you listened.”

Samuel Edwards said he visited his father at home the weekend before he died. He was bedridden and not eating well, he said, but remained keenly interested in the winter flounder stock. As a Trustee, he had spearheaded the effort to get the town into the business of breeding and releasing winter flounder to replenish the population. “That’s a legacy he wants to leave,” Samuel Edwards said.

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Norm was one of the best and brightest. A gentleman of integrity who was willing to consider the other point of view yet maintain his dignity and humanity even in disagreement. A person with a real love for this town its people its heritage and fishing and fishermen. Next to his family its the fishermen who will miss him the most. We love you Norm, may god rest you. Fact
By facts man (148), east hampton on Jan 21, 11 4:15 PM
Norman Edwards, a true gentleman.
By montaukman (98), easthampton on Jan 21, 11 8:56 PM
He served his country and town with great distinction and dignity. He will be missed.
By connwatcher (112), east hampton on Jan 22, 11 2:30 PM
I was reading this article today about CPT Edwards and thought, Wow he's probably a realative I have never met. My father fished these same waters as his father did until he past away in 1967 or 1968. The Conklin blood still flows rich on Long Island even though none of my family has paid a visit since 1968.
By Ghostofchristmaspast (1), midland on Jun 8, 11 9:58 AM
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