By Dan Moffett
SOUTH PALM BEACH — Donald Clayman guided South Palm Beach through one of the most difficult periods in its history with an upbeat attitude and a common-sense approach, delivered with a Boston accent.
But the retired podiatrist kept his focus and optimism. When he left office in 2015, the Town Council called him in to receive an award for his service. He gave a gracious thank-you to officials and residents, then said he would walk out the door.
“I want to leave when everyone is still applauding,” Mr. Clayman said.
The applause swelled as he left the chambers.
Mr. Clayman died May 7 in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, after a short illness. He was 84. Natalie Shulman Clayman, his wife of 59 years, had died in 2016.
“For Mayor Clayman, community service was his passion,” said Yude Alvarez, the town clerk who served alongside him. “Mayor Clayman had the ability to bring people together to drive positive change. He made the world a better place and will be sorely missed.”
Born in Boston, Mr. Clayman loved youth hockey, which he coached, and Red Sox baseball, which he would discuss with anyone willing to listen. He was a proud member of the Kiwanis Club, Florida League of Cities and the Palm Beach County Medical Society.
Mr. Clayman served two years as president of the Palm Beach Harbour Club and sat on the condo board. He was president of the Ocean Lodge B’nai Brith in Winthrop, Massachusetts.
“He was a very active man with great energy, and he was never on the sidelines,” said Ellen Salth, who served with him on the condo board. “He threw his whole heart into everything he did.”
Salth said Mr. Clayman volunteered his medical services to help poor communities in South Florida. He also drew on his expertise to hold flu clinics and an H1N1 virus prevention program in the town.
“He had a warm smile and a firm handshake,” said Elvadianne Culbertson, a former council member. “That’s the kind of thing you want to remember.”
Mr. Clayman earned his doctor of podiatry degree at Kent State University in Ohio. He raised his family in Winthrop, where he resided for 40 years.
He is survived by his children, Bryan Clayman and his wife, Debbie, of Stoughton, Massachusetts; Cynthia McKeon and her husband, Tony, of Salem, New Hampshire; and Alycia Avery and her longtime partner, Jeff Ouellette, of Hudson, New Hampshire; five grandchildren, Bradly, Jayme, Alexa, Dylan and Zachary; his brother, Burton Clayman of Destin; his sister, Marcia Drieker of Florida; as well as a great-grandchild expected this fall.
Bonnie Fischer handed Mr. Clayman his only election loss in 2015 after a hard-fought campaign for mayor.
“I ran into him after the election and he told me he was going back north to live in New Hampshire and be near family,” Fischer recalls. “He told me he was glad I’d won. ‘Everything worked out for the best,’ he said. That was important to me. We kept our good relationship. He left town on a high note.”