James E. Armstrong

Aug. 28, 1926 - Jan. 24, 2018

James Edward Armstrong of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and formerly of Dayton Lane in East Hampton died on Jan. 24 in Delray Beach, Fla., of complications related to a heart condition. He was 91.

When Mr. Armstrong was diagnosed with a heart condition two years ago, the doctors said, “ ‘Go and enjoy the rest of your life.’ So that’s what we did,” said Ramon Luis Colon, his companion of 40 years. “In fact, on the Saturday before he died, we went out to dinner with friends. He only spent one night in hospice.”

Mr. Armstrong was born on Aug. 28, 1926, in Medford, Mass., to James Edward Armstrong Sr. and Florence Mutch. In 1944, after graduating from Revere High School in Massachusetts, he joined the Navy. He was stationed on a tanker that refueled ships on the Atlantic Ocean. Upon discharge, he enrolled at Boston University, where he received a B.B.A., then attended New York University, where he received an M.B.A.

After a brief stint at Irving Trust Bank in New York, Mr. Armstrong moved to Citibank, where he remained until he retired as the head of the trust department. Through Citibank he came to work closely with the family of William Robertson Coe, a British financier, insurance and railroad executive, and collector of Americana art, who formed the Planting Fields in Oyster Bay, a foundation dedicated to the enhancement and development of the former Coe estate.

Mr. Armstrong was a trustee of Planting Fields as well as a trustee for two of the Coe children who relocated to Europe. According to Mr. Colon, Mr. Armstrong spent a great deal of time traveling to and from Europe to attend to their affairs. He was particularly close to Natalie Mai Coe, who married Leonardo Vitetti, an Italian count, and thus became Countess Vitetti. 

“Sometimes he would fly to Rome because the countess wanted to see him. I think she missed him. They would stay at the villa outside Rome and play Scrabble. Jim didn’t come from a wealthy family, but he had the social graces that people liked.”

Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Colon lived in East Hampton from 1992 to 2015, before they retired to Florida. “It was a nice life,” said Mr. Colon. “We entertained every weekend. Jim loved to cook. We went to the beach, the theater. We saw all the plays at Bay Street and Guild Hall. We kept my apartment in New York and would go in to see everything that came out on Broadway. He loved movies and books too.”

In addition to Mr. Colon, Mr. Armstrong is survived by his sister Leona M. Armstrong of Revere, Mass., and by several nieces and nephews and an extended family. His brothers, Donald E. Armstrong, Roy G. Armstrong, and Paul K. Armstrong, died before him, as did his sisters Mildred O’Brien and Isabelle Armstrong.

A memorial service was held on Feb. 24 at the Kraeer-Becker Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Deerfield Beach.