July 16, 2020

Rod White is Old Lyme’s 2017 ‘Citizen of the Year’

From left to right standing, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Selectman Chris Kerr, Judy White (Rod’s wife), and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder celebrate Rod White (seated) being named the 2017 Old Lyme Citizen of the Year.

Noting at Monday (Jan.22) evening’s Annual Town Meeting in Memorial Town Hall that it was always a “joy” to announce the Old Lyme Citizen of the Year, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder then declared that Roderick M. White was the 2017 recipient.

After the applause for White has dissipated, Reemsnyder read the Proclamation that gave the justification for his honor.

Old Lyme’s 2017 ‘Citizen of the Year’ Rod White (seated) is joined by the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen. His wife, Judy, is seated second from right.

She said, “Over the course of his 50+ years in Old Lyme, Rod White has set a high standard for community service. Born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, Rod graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1950. He spent the next quarter of a century making his mark in the Coast Guard. A faculty member from 1969 to 1974, he served as Dean of Academics from 1974 to 1983. In 1969, he was named the outstanding Naval Engineer of the year, receiving the prestigious Gold Medal from the American Society of Naval Engineers.”

Commenting in more detail on White’s Gold Medal citation, Reemsnyder said it, “refers to “his exceptional analytical skills and technical competence… [and] significant contributions in the advancement of icebreaker design …” It was Rod’s “White Bow” design that made it possible for the SS Manhattan to make the first successful transit of the Northwest Passage by a commercial vessel.”

Reemsnyder drew laughter from the audience of approximately 40 residents when she took a break from the text to mention that reference to White’s invention seemed, “… particularly timely this year in view of the fact that there are currently ice-breakers on the Connecticut River.”

While his wife Judy wiped away a tear, an emotional White spoke to the audience thanking the board of selectmen for the award and declaring his deep fondness of the Old Lyme community.

She continued reading the Proclamation text, saying, “Rod White has used his exceptional skills in our community in so many ways. A founding member of the Harbor Management Commission, he served as Chair from 1988 to 1994, and was elected Registrar of Voters from 1993 to 2004. An active member of the Republican Town Committee, serving as both secretary and vice-chair, he was elected for two terms to the Regional District 18 Board of Education, serving from 1997 to 2005.  Rod was our Town’s representative to the Southeastern Tourism District for many years, and currently serves on the Board of Assessment Appeals, a position to which he was first elected in 2007.”

Rod White (seated) is congratulated by previous Old Lyme Citizens of the Year, Jeff Sturges (left) and Lynn Fairfield-Sonn (right.)

Finally, Reemsnyder mentioned that, “Despite his obviously busy schedule, Rod willingly shared his talents with a larger community, as well.”  She noted that he served as Executive Director for the Eastern CT Foundation for Public Giving, Executive Director of the Coast Guard Foundation, Chair of the Boy Scouts Long Range Planning Committee and as a member of both the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Board and Connecticut’s Olympic Committee.

Reemsnyder added, “He has also been a loyal and active member of the Rotary, an organization synonymous with service, since 1975.” 

With a broad smile, she concluded with the words, “Tonight, we recognize a resident whose name is synonymous with service in our town as we honor our 2017 Citizen of the Year, Roderick M. White.”

Rod White (seated) was joined by numerous friends and relatives to celebrate his new accolade.

When Reemsnyder stopped reading and presented him with the Citation, White was completely overwhelmed and unable to speak for a short time.  With tears still visible on his face, he finally was able to express his deep gratitude for the award, saying, “It has always been an honor to serve this community.”  He commented on how much the evening had meant to him and apologized for being in a wheelchair saying he had fallen and broken his hip and then, in a second accident, his knee.

White spoke again of his love of Old Lyme  and his profound appreciation of the award before the board of selectmen, family, and friends joined him in turn for photos.

Congratulations from all of us at LymeLine.com to Captain White!



  1. Jean Wilczynski says

    Congratulations to a true icon of public service! Thanks for your inspiring life story, Captain White!

  2. Congratulations, Rod. Sorry to hear about your two falls. Can’t really apologize for the wheelchair.

  3. Congratulaions Rod!
    Your classmate and fellow Academy sailing team member.
    Bill Baldau

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