Russell Drumm, Author and East Hampton Star Columnist, 68

Russell Drumm

Russell Drumm, a senior writer for The East Hampton Star, who for 33 years wrote about commercial and recreational fishing among a range of other subjects large and small, died on Saturday at Southampton Hospital of cancer. He was 68.

As a columnist and reporter, his work set a standard of excellence and helped to define The Star, both for the paper's readers and for his colleagues, who looked to him as an example of how to approach the job with seriousness but good humor.

Mr. Drumm wrote eloquently about important regional issues and events — the 1996 explosion of Flight 800 above the Atlantic Ocean off Moriches, for example — but even his descriptions of the most common things, like the tug of a fish on a line, were poetic. He wrote about surfing, sailing, the East Hampton Town Trustees, coastal management, and tackled topics that spanned from a dog's eye view of a week on the lam to medical marijuana in his more personal pieces. He never seemed to run out of words and had an unparalleled ability to string them together in a way that made them infinitely compelling.

Mr. Drumm contributed to such magazines as The Surfer's Journal and was the author of three books. His first, "In the Slick of the Cricket," an account of Capt. Frank Mundus, the model for Captain Quint in Peter Benchley's "Jaws," was published in 1996. It won a Pushcart Prize the following year.

Houghton Mifflin published "The Barque of Saviors: Eagle's Passage From the Nazi Navy to the U.S. Coast Guard," a history of the Coast Guard's sail-training ship, in 2001. In 2012, he released "A Rogue's Yarn" as an e-book. The story of an aging surfer with "a dark secret, an obsession, and a following," drew in part upon research he had been doing for a book project on the history of rope. Last year, he had completed the first draft of a fourth book.

A lifelong surfer, Mr. Drumm was involved in the establishment of the Oceans Institute at the Montauk Lighthouse Museum, also known as the Montauk Surf Museum. In a 1991 piece on surfing history for The East Hampton Star, he recalled his own long fascination with the sport, writing: "waves were pure energy that carried the kinetic memory of other days in far-away places across the curved face of the earth, to be spent in a tube of rolling glass custom-made for posturing."

Mr. Drumm began as an ad salesman and reporter at The East Hampton Star in 1983. He came to the newspaper after getting to know Montauk during summers in the 1960s, surfing and working in restaurants, he said in a 1985 interview.

He had a masters degree in film from Columbia University and worked on "Harlan County, USA," a documentary by Barbara Kopple that won an Academy Award in 1977. He made Montauk his home in 1974, working as a deckhand on a lobster boat.

Puzzled over how to make use of Jonah crabs, a lobster by-catch, he invented a processing method to extract their meat. He went into business for himself, opening Sweet Crab, at the former New York Ocean Science Lab on Fort Pond Bay in Montauk. He ran the company until 1980, when he sold its equipment and inventory to a Canadian firm.

Mr. Drumm lived in Montauk with his wife, Kyle Paseka. He is also survived by a daughter, Melissa Drumm-Flaherty of Springs, and a granddaughter.

A graveside service will be held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Fort Hill Cemetery in Montauk. A reception will follow at East by Northeast restaurant in Montauk. 

A memorial gathering will be held at The East Hampton Star office on Main Street on Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. A surfers paddle-out is planned for sometime in the spring.

A full obituary will appear in a future edition of The East Hampton Star.