By Emily J. Minor
BOYNTON BEACH — Susan Eileen (McDonald) Norton, whose good manners and slight frame often belied her stubbornness, true grit and power on the tennis court, died last month after fighting a rare cancer that showed itself last May, subsided just long enough to offer hope, then returned in March with a vengeance. She was 55.
“She never complained,” said her sister, Kathy Baffer, who lives in coastal Delray Beach. “She always wanted to fight this, right to the end. Now she’s our guardian angel.”
A Florida girl through and through, Mrs. Norton grew up in Boca Raton and attended Saint Andrew’s School with her twin brother, John III, and, later, Kathy. She was always athletic and loved competition, her sister said, performing on most of Saint Andrew’s varsity teams and once setting a record for the 5K run.
Besides tennis — the two sisters loved to play doubles — Mrs. Norton was an accomplished golfer. She also loved the quiet of gardening.
After leaving Boca Raton in 1979 to attend Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., the former Susan McDonald came back to Palm Beach County, where she launched a successful career with Arvida selling real estate. In 1989, she married Dr. Stephen Norton, a dentist she met through mutual neighborhood friends.
The couple had three children — Stephen, 25, and twins Emily and Gregory, 23 — all three of whom are now studying at the College of Dental Medicine, Nova Southeastern University.
As the children grew, Mrs. Norton turned her attention to the kids, her husband’s dental practice and her physical fitness. Patients knew her as the smiling officer manager, always reassuring, her dog, Zeuss, tucked at her feet.
Mrs. Norton ate well, exercised and had a strong faith. So when she got sick last May with angiosarcoma, a cancer that affected her heart, it was particularly jarring, her sister said.
“She was always just so full of life,” Baffer said. “We all knew she was going to beat this.”
Mrs. Norton’s family spent months researching the best treatments. Her brother once flew her from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to a specialty ward in Houston. There, she lay in ICU for far too long.
But after chemo treatments in Houston, she returned to the family’s home in Pine Tree Country Club Estates and was able to enjoy many weekends with her husband, children and dogs at the family’s retreat on Lake June. Baffer said her sister was feeling relatively well until early March, when complications began to pile up.
She died April 4, her last rites administered by a favorite priest. She was buried in a small cemetery near the family’s Lake June home.
Besides her husband, children, sister and brother, Mrs. Norton is survived by many nieces and nephews. Her parents, Millie and John, preceded her in death.
The family asks that memorial donations be made to the Sarcoma Foundation of America, which can be found online at www.curesarcoma.org. The family has long been members of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church.