Lifelong Quogue resident Edward T. Otis III explains that giving back to his community has been a tradition in his family ever since his late father, Bob, helped found the Rotary Club of Westhampton in 1953.
Crediting his father as being his role model, Mr. Otis, 66, who is better known by his middle name of Tom, has served as president of Otis Ford on Montauk Highway in Quogue Village for the past 38 years. He said he has made a point of assisting the East End community whenever possible, whether he is helping plan a Rotary Club fundraiser, volunteering his time to help the homeless through Maureen’s Haven, or protecting his hometown by serving on the Quogue Fire Department. Prior to stepping down, he also spent more than a decade serving on the Quogue Board of Education.
Though he has never sought recognition, Mr. Otis said he was thrilled to learn that his service to his hometown had not gone unnoticed when, earlier this year, the Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee tapped him to serve as the 47th grand marshal of the parade, scheduled this year for Saturday, March 9, starting at noon.
“I was very excited,” said Mr. Otis, who will lead marchers during the 46th annual parade (there were two co-grand marshals one year). “I felt honored to be recognized for my community involvement.”
Because he is best known as a businessman and philanthropist—his father founded Otis Ford in 1946, the same year his son was born—few realize that Mr. Otis, who has sold cars for most of his life, also enjoys racing them. He explained that he picked up the hobby about five years ago when a colleague recommended that he give it a try.
During the summer months, he often spends his weekends competing in amateur races behind the wheel of his blue 2004 Mustang Cobra, which is emblazoned with the number 891.
He also collects classic cars and boasts a collection that includes six vehicles, including several Mustangs. For the parade, he has asked some of his racing buddies, most of whom are traveling from out of town, to drive their prized vehicles down Main Street as part of the festivities in Westhampton Beach.
“It will be very cool,” Mr. Otis said of the spectacle.
Mr. Otis was born in November 1946 and was barely a month old when his father purchased a car dealership on Montauk Highway and opened Otis Ford. The dealership has been a part of his life since then. Starting in the seventh grade, Mr. Otis said he would often go there immediately after being dropped off by the school bus to assist his father at the business.
Three days after earning his bachelor’s degree in art from Buena Vista University in Strong Lake, Iowa, Mr. Otis returned home to Quogue to work full-time at the dealership. It was there that he developed lifelong friendships and, in December 1970, met the love his life, Jane, while selling her parents a car.
They were married in June 1971 and have three children—Elizabeth, 35, Mary, 34, and Tommy, 28. Although he does not get to see them as much as he would like, Mr. Otis said he enjoys spending time with his four grandchildren—Charlie, 6, Dagney, 4, Georgia, 2, and Benjamin, 1.
From 1968 through 1972, Mr. Otis served as a reservist in the U.S. Air National Guard and, in 1970, was promoted to lieutenant of the transportation unit that was based in Riverhead. The unit is no longer located on the East End.
While his family business has always been important to him, Mr. Otis notes that helping his community has always been one of his priorities. For the past 35 years, Mr. Otis has been an active member of the Rotary Club of Westhampton, which organizes a number of charitable events each year, and, for the past two years, has served as the group’s vice president. He served as club president in 1989.
He said two of his proudest accomplishments with Rotary was helping get the group’s annual spaghetti dinner off the ground and, for the past 26 years, organizing the club’s annual charity golf outing. Over that time, Mr. Otis estimates that he has helped collect more than $700,000 in donations and has no intention of slowing down.
“Numerous colleagues of mine were involved in the Rotary when I joined,” Mr. Otis said. “With my family knowledge of the Rotary, I felt it was something I should do.”
He also served on the Quogue Board of Education for 16 years, starting in 1992. He said he decided to run for office that year after officials were discussing possibly closing the Quogue School, a small elementary school, and consolidating with one of the larger districts in the area. Mr. Otis would go on to serve as board president for 13 years, until stepping down in 2008.