Robert Pike, dead at 57, lived for family, Riverhead

Rob Pike and his wife, Carol, with their children, Julia and Otis, during the 2008 Blues Festival.

Former Riverhead Town councilman and staunch environmentalist Robert D. Pike died Sunday morning at Peconic Bay Medical Center after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 57.

“He was magical,” said his sister, Lois Pike Eyre. “He could take the normal and make it seem bright and unusual. He was a dreamer and he dreamt wonderful things for the town and the area, which he loved dearly.”

Ms. Eyre said her brother “worked harder to fight this illness than I have ever seen him work on anything else in his life. He outlived his prognosis by three years,” she said.

Mr. Pike loved skiing and was known for his work trying to preserve farmland and open space, downtown Riverhead’s Suffolk Theatre, Robins Island, and many other areas.

“He was involved in a lot of things, but most of all, he wanted to live for his family,” Ms. Eyre said. “He adored his step-daughter, Julia, his son, Otis, and his wife, Carol.”

The son of former New York Congressman Otis Pike, Robert Pike served one term as a Democrat on the Town Board, from 1986 to 1989, during which time he was probably best known for his preservation efforts.

“I think that Rob was, in many ways, ahead of his time,” said former Councilwoman Denise Civiletti, who served with Mr. Pike for two years. “He was a visionary, he had a vision for Riverhead and he worked very hard to make it come to pass. And although some of it may not have been brought to fruition during his term on board, much of it happened after he was off the board, things that I think would not have happened if not for him.”

Ms. Civiletti said Mr. Pike “changed the conversation in Riverhead and got people talking about conservation and land-use planning in ways they had not done before.”

She described Mr. Pike as “brilliant” and said he had a sense of humor even as his life was ending.

Born in Riverhead on March 22, 1953, he was the youngest child of Doris Pike and former Congressman Pike, who served the 1st Congressional District from 1961 to 1979. He graduated from Riverhead High School in 1971, earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Stanford University in 1975 and a law degree from American University in 1978.

Mr. Pike ran a law practice in Riverhead and a resorts properties business in Ludlow, Vt.

He was nominated for town council in 1985, at the age of 32, and the issue he focused most on at the time was the pace of development in the town.

“Riverhead is heading into what I think will be a decade of enormous pressures,” he was quoted as saying during the 1985 campaign. He said there is an “enormous risk that we will fail to learn from the mistakes of former farming communities such as Farmingdale.”

In 1989, he opted not to seek re-election after the Democrats declined to endorse him because party members were divided on preservation issues at the time.

A News-Review article from that same year read, “Mr. Pike’s name in Riverhead has become synonymous with the term ‘environmentalist’ during his 3 1/2 years in office, and his insistence on upzoning as a preservation tool had made him both enemies and friends.”

Despite his struggle with cancer, Mr. Pike was preparing to run for a Town Board seat on the Democratic slate in 2009, but he publicly bowed out on the night of the Democratic nominating convention due to his health.

Predeceased by his mother, Doris, in 1997, he is survived by his wife, Carol; his step-daughter, Julia, and his son, Otis; his father, who has retired to Vero Beach, Fla.; his, brother, Douglas, of Paoli, Penn., and sister, Ms. Eyre, of Riverhead.

A memorial service for Mr. Pike will take place at 11 a.m. today, Thursday, May 13, at First Congregational Church of Riverhead on East Main Street. A reception will follow at the church.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.