By Ron Hayes
DELRAY BEACH — During her 40 years in the area, Elizabeth Matthews Paton played golf at The Little Club in Gulf Stream, and she wrote its history. She enjoyed the beach, and worked to beautify it.
Mrs. Paton, who died May 22, had celebrated her 90th birthday with a gathering of 20 family members on Dec. 6, 2008, at the St. Andrew's Club, where she had lived since 1994.
A Par 3 course built on the site of a former polo club, The Little Club was already a decade old when Betty Paton joined in 1978, but two decades later, she would write The Little Club, 1968-1998, a detailed history of the club's first 30 years. She was not comfortable with the word, however.
“The word history is far too pretentious a description of this small volume," she wrote in her foreword to the 44-page, illustrated booklet. But history it was, and throughly researched, beautifully written history, too.
“She was a dynamo," remembers Gulf Stream Mayor Bill Koch, “a real lover of the club, who gave her time and effort to make it what is is.”
Dot Riley met Mrs. Paton not long after she arrived in Delray Beach and the two remained best friends for the next 40 years.
“We did crazy things together, and stupid things together, and good things together,” Riley recalled, “but we survived, and I shall miss her. She was a loyal person with very wide and varied interests.”
In addition to serving as a governor and officer of The Little Club, Mrs. Paton was the secretary of the Beach Property Owners’ Association for 17 years, until her retirement in 1991.
She was also a chair of the city's Beach Advisory Council and worked with the City Commission to add public walkways and showers to the oceanfront.
After moving to the St. Andrew's Club, she served as president from 2000-2002.
“Her dedication and devotion to the community are what's most expressive of what she was like,” said Pat Stewart of Gulf Steam, another longtime friend. “She was terribly bright, very articulate and devoted to her family and friends.”
Born Nov. 23, 1918, in Montclair, N.J., Elizabeth Ann Hughes earned a bachelor of science degree in education from Rutgers University in 1940 and a master’s degree in communications from the American University in Washington, D.C., in 1959.
Her first husband, William Henry Matthews, died in 1992 after 32 years of marriage, and she married William John Ross Paton in 1994. He died in June 1996.
Locally, she is survived by a nephew, James Tim Hughes of Boca Raton, and a niece, Katherine Hughes of Delray Beach and London, England. She is also survived by two stepdaughters, Pamela Fulge, of Bethesda, Md.; and Miriam Munro, of Los Angeles, Calif., 10 grandchidren and 16 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held June 6 at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach, followed by interment next to her first husband in Greenwich, Conn.
The family requests donations be made to the Memory & Wellness Center at Florida Atlantic University or Hospice of Palm Beach County.