At year's end, The New York Times and other print media, plus television and websites document stories of people who have lived a good life over the past year. Your column this week will mirror that endeavor, but with a sailing twist. The man in question was a very special person to many who choose sailing as their sport of choice. And though he has not been with us since 1998, he lives on in our memories as a fine gentleman, a man who many called their friend.
Roger Shope was honored by the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club this fall with the opening of the Roger Shope Gallery. Roger was the club's 44th commodore, serving in that capacity from 1988-1989. Roger, who was an accomplished photographer, had amassed many photographs of sailing and frostbiting shots, as well as stills of various club members and staff. He worked primarily in black and white, creating very dramatic photographs. Through the generosity of his widow, Jean, 52 beautifully framed photos grace the halls of the third floor of MBYC, and serve not only as a historical walk through local nautical history, but welcome many guests who have come from harbors near and far to the Inn at Manhasset Bay.
Roger was born in Pittsburgh and grew up on only child in Manhasset, where he developed a love of sailing and was an intermediate member of Port Washington YC. After graduating from Manhasset HS and serving in the military in World War II, he graduated from Norwich University in Vermont in 1948. An Army Scout in the Philippines, he was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Ribbons, American Theatre Campaign Ribbon and Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze service stars. After being wounded, Roger worked as an Army photographer.
Roger's interest in photography led him to television and he became a writer, director and producer. He won an Emmy for a documentary about the Eichmann Trials, the first ever won by the ABC network. He later worked at NBC, returning to ABC as director of the 7 o'clock Eyewitness News. He stayed with ABC for 25 years. As was customary in those early days of television, producers did everything from doing the research, writing the script, to filming the story. Roger's work included such diverse pieces as documentaries on Fishers Island for New York Illustrated to writing songs for Romper Room. He also was producer and director of training films for the American Institute of CPA's for a 10-year period.
Throughout his career in television and video, Roger never lost his interest in still photography. His nautical photographs and articles about sailing appeared in Sailing, Yachting, Soundings, yacht club publications and local weekly publications. With a dark room in his home, all of Rogers' articles contained photographs taken, developed and printed by Roger.
Jean and Roger Shope were married in 1976, shortly after they joined MBYC. Prior to that time, Roger was a member of Sea Cliff YC. Many sailors will remember Roger at the helm of his beloved 42-foot Bruno-Stillman lobster boat, Resolute, in service as the Race Committee boat for many local regattas including Manhasset Bay Fall Series, The Knickerbocker Cup, Port Jefferson Cup Regatta, and the Newsday Stars and Stripes Regatta in New York Harbor.
After serving as commodore of MBYC, Roger was dedicated to the MBYC Regatta Committee for 18 years and was its chairman. He was the MBYC club delegate to the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRA of LIS) for many years, serving as its vice president from 1992-1995 and president from 1995-1997. He was certified as a judge and as a principal race officer by U.S. Sailing. As president of the YRA, he was credited for inaugurating seminars on race committee management. For his many contributions and innovations, he was awarded the Ned Anderson Achievement Award from the YRA. In 1998, the YRA honored Roger by establishing the Roger H. Shope Trophy, to be awarded to an individual for excellence in Race Management. Names readers might recognize that have received this award since its inception include Stanley Bell, Larchmont YC (1999), Bruce Cook, Seawanhaka Corinthian YC (2000), John Storck, Jr., Lloyd Harbor YC (2001), Sue Miller, MBYC (2003) and most recently Cynthia Parthemos, Larchmont YC (2007).
Roger was a member of New York YC, an honorary member of Knickerbocker YC and was honored by Larchmont YC for his contributions to sailing. He was a founding member of the Nautical Center at the Port Washington Public Library and he was also a volunteer fireman for the Roslyn Fire Department.
Commodore Shope died of a sudden heart attack at age 73 on January 30, 1998 on the upper lounge on MBYC, just prior to a club lecture on sailing. His legacy includes improving interclub relations, particularly with Knickerbocker YC and Larchmont YC, using his beloved Resolute as Race Committee boat in their regattas. He expanded MBYC's involvement with the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRA of LIS). And he leaves behind a body of photography work that resides in the Roger Shope Gallery at Manhasset Bay Yacht Club - photographs that bring into focus the history of local yachting from the perspective of a very talented man whose artistic and skilled eye captured the beauty of Manhasset Bay and lives of people devoted to sailing.
Many thanks to Pattie Gallatin for the information about Roger Shope provided in this week's column.