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Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs staff members are mourning the loss of Alan Roth who served in a variety of roles for the agency between 2008 and 2018. Roth passed away at his home in Milton, Del. on Oct. 12, 2020.
Born in 1947 in Lewes, Del., Roth spent most of the early part of his life in Michigan. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1970 with a U.S. Army commission from the ROTC, he attended Officer Basic Course, Airborne School and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. He spent the remainder of his military service at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
After leaving the Army, Roth returned to Michigan where he again enrolled at Eastern Michigan University to complete his master’s degree in land-use analysis and remote sensing. During his long career working on geographic information systems and mapping, he wrote four field manuals and taught related courses at Delaware Technical Community College. He also invented a modern survey and mapping software known as Retriever Automated Surveying and Mapping Systems that revolutionized how surveyors collect data in the field and create maps, leading the transformation from a paper-based industry to more modern automation techniques.
While living in Delaware after retirement, Roth served first as a volunteer and, later, as a historic-site interpreter for the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes. In 2015, he was among the museum’s staff members who received the division’s Biggest Impact Award for their work in taking over the tours of HMB DeBraak upon the retirement of division archaeologist Chuck Fithian.
Commenting on Roth’s work at the museum, Zwaanendael Site Supervisor Bridget Warner noted, “Alan was a gregarious person and visitors always enjoyed interacting with him. A devout bibliophile, he was always reading a new book on history. Born in Lewes, he had an extensive knowledge of town- and state-history which he loved to share with people. He also loved to regale people with his jokes and witticisms. He was a great guy who will be missed.”
Roth also served as an all-around handyman for the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team creating models of exhibit spaces, designing and making exhibit furniture, matting and framing works of art and repairing furniture from the State’s collections.
CARE Team Manager Edward McWilliams recalled that “at this time of year, Alan would begin wearing his infamous green sweater with leather patches. This signaled the beginning of fall and Alan’s use of his fireplace. The smell of smoke would permeate the sweater and I would tease him to stay away from smoke detectors in our buildings. … We enjoyed talking about our shared interest in gardening and … he was always ready and prepared to tell a good yarn.”
Go to the following for more information on the life of Alan White Roth.