Greenport merchant George Rowsom, dead at 77

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | George Rowsom, who volunteered as a bird bander for the North Fork Audubon Society, with other society members in 2011.
George Rowsom of Orient, the owner of the S.T. Preston and Son business, which for many years has anchored Greenport’s working waterfront, died Sunday at age 77.

Mr. Rowsom became involved in Preston’s when his father-in-law, Frank Fagan, an advertising executive, bought the business in the late 1950s from the family of founder Samuel Truman Preston, a Boston sea captain. Preston’s started in 1880 as a ships’ chandlery providing goods and materials to maintain yachts visiting Greenport, including vessels owned by the Vanderbilt family and America’s Cup winners.

The business later expanded to include nautical gifts and home decor. Mr. Fagan and Mr. Rowsom were pioneers in the mail order business through the company’s “ships & sea” catalogue.

Mr. Rowsom was involved in a number of local organizations and efforts, including helping coordinate the reconstruction of Orient’s Bug Light lighthouse in 1990. He was recognized for his efforts by being named grand marshal for the 2010 Greenport Maritime Festival parade on the 20th anniversary of the light’s completion.

He also served as a volunteer for North Fork Audubon Society and was a member of Orient Yacht Club.

“George was one of just a few gentlemen I know,” said Bill Claudio, whose family owns Claudio’s Restaurant, another Greenport waterfront mainstay. “He was always very kind and very easy to talk to. It’s sad news.”

Visiting will take place Wednesday, March 27, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home at 735 First Street in Greenport with a service on Thursday, March 28, at 10:30 a.m. in the funeral home’s chapel.

A full obituary will appear in Thursday’s Suffolk Times.