AUBURN — John W. White of Minot, died peacefully on April 12, at the Hospice House, in the company of his family.
He was born on April 20, 1916, and grew up at the Whiteholm Dairy Farm on Turner Street in Auburn. His long, happy and remarkable life was marked by many interests and accomplishments, including farming, real estate, competitive swimming, iris hybridizing, genealogy, history and public service. He was a warm and kind man, loving and proud of his family and blessed with a legion of friends of all ages.
He graduated from Edward Little High School in 1934, and from Bates College in 1939, with a bachelor’s degree in economics. At Bates, he was the captain of the Bates swim team, specializing in the backstroke under the tutelage of his coach and father, Harold S. White. He was married on June 28, 1941, to Evelyn Jones, who he met at Bates. They shared an idyllic life at the Whiteholm Farm and later at the home they built in Minot. He was the farm manager and treasurer of the Whiteholm Farm dairy from 1941 to 1976, and established a second career as a real estate broker from 1977 to 1992, specializing in undeveloped farm and forest land.
During his lifetime, he was a director of the Lewiston-Auburn Red Cross, a member of the Twin County Farm Bureau and Androscoggin County Soil Conservation Commission, a director of the Maine Breeding Association, president and director of the Androscoggin Historical Society, a director of the Sarah Frye Home and president of the Auburn Heritage Society. He served on the Auburn City Council from 1960 to 1968, the board of directors of the Auburn Urban Renewal Authority form 1969 to 1974, and the town of Minot Budget Committee.
After a full life of dairy farming, during which he employed progressive agricultural methods, he, with his wife, Evelyn and son, Edward, established extensive and admired flower gardens at their Minot home, specializing in varieties of iris, daylilies and hosta. He became nationally known for his hybridization of new and improved Japanese and Siberian iris, receiving many awards for his work, including the distinguished W.A. Payne Medal from the American Iris Society in 2007 for his creation Dirigo Pink Milestone. He was a member of the Maine and American Iris Societies, the Maine Hosta Society and the Japanese, Siberian and Pacific Coast Iris Societies. He and Evelyn attended many national iris conventions together. At the time of his death, he was working on developing the first pure yellow Japanese iris in the world.
He traveled extensively with Evelyn, including to Russia, Kenya, Alaska, England, Mexico, Central America, Canada and the Caribbean. After “retiring” from farming, he also became a world-class competitive masters swimmer in the backstroke, training and competing until age 93. He was perpetually among the top three backstrokers of his age in the United States and was ranked as high as second in the world in the 200 meter backstroke. He swam almost daily at the Bates College pool and counted among his friends many fellow masters swimmers and members of the Bates College swim team.
He also had a lifelong interest in the genealogy of the White, Frye, Jones and Kilgore families, creating well annotated family trees going back several centuries and traveling to England on several occasions to track down family heirs.
He is survived by five children, Edward White of Minot, John White and wife, Anne, of Auburn, Donald White and wife, Terry, of Auburn, Jeffrey White and wife, Nancy, of Cape Elizabeth and Janet Schwanda and husband, John, of Freeport; 12 grandchildren, Megan, Matthew, Benjamin, Allison, Lindsey, Kurt, Josie, Kara, Peter, Jamie, Wade and Caitlin; and one great-granddaughter, Lily.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Kenneth Brodsky and the caregivers of Assisted Home Care and Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice.