Alan White Roth, avid storyteller

October 14, 2020

Alan White Roth, 73, loving partner and father of three, passed away Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at his home in Milton, from anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

Alan was born March 6, 1947, at Beebe Hospital in Lewes. He spent most of his childhood in Michigan; however, his mother’s hometown of Lewes remained near and dear to him throughout his life. His grandfather, Dr. Richard Beebe, was a founding partner of Beebe Hospital, and Alan spent summers at his grandmother’s house on Savannah Road in Lewes, which today houses the Beebe Medical Foundation. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1970 with a U.S. Army commission from the ROTC, Alan held his swearing-in ceremony at the Naval Facility Lewes at Cape Henlopen. Following that, he left for Fort Benning, Ga., where he attended the Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, and Ranger School, or, as he liked to describe it, “the Army’s way of ruining a perfectly good camping trip.” He spent the remainder of his military service at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He stopped counting the number of times he jumped out of an airplane during his time in the Army at 126.

After leaving the Army, Alan returned to Michigan to raise a family and had three sons. He also returned to EMU to complete his master’s degree in land-use analysis and remote sensing. His career focused on geographic information systems and mapping. He wrote four field manuals on the subject and taught related courses at Delaware Technical University and Delaware 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 of a paper-based industry to more modern automation techniques. EMU lauded this work in 1995 when it recognized Alan as a distinguished alumnus.

Alan was an avid storyteller, history buff, hunter, and conservationist. He was a member of and contributor to the Ruffed Grouse Society, which works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitats for grouse, woodcock, and other wildlife utilizing scientific management practices. Alan enjoyed the gift of gab and was able to recall facts about American history to an incredible level of detail. These skills served him well in retirement when he worked for Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs, and could frequently be found at the Zwaanendael Museum. Early mornings, he spent time at the Lewes Bake Shoppe, where he’d regale locals with stories and a joke or two. He’d always start with, “Have I told you the one about?” His love for people knew no bounds. Alan accepted people as they were, and was a kind and generous soul.

Alan was preceded in death by his father, George Sydney Roth; his mother, Violet Beebe; and his eldest son, David Beebe Roth, who died while on active duty at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning. He is survived by his longtime partner, Ellen Fontana of Milton; his sons, Jeffrey Roth of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Michael Roth of Negaunee, Mich.; his daughter-in-law, Janice Roth of Wixom, Mich.; his sister and brother, Cathy Roth and Peter Roth, both of Howell, Mich.; and his grandchildren, Samantha Roth of Commerce Township, Mich., and Gunnar and Lavinia Roth of Negaunee.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25, at Parsell Funeral Homes and Crematorium, Atkins-Lodge Chapel, 16961 Kings Highway, Lewes, where friends may visit beginning at 2 p.m. Interment will be private.

Visit Alan’s Life Memorial webpage and sign his online guestbook at

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