By Sallie James
BOCA RATON — Laurel Kaplan Swaye, a founding member of the Yacht & Racquet Club of Boca Raton and an avid tennis player, died Oct. 20 after a long battle with cancer. She was 86.
Her resilience and determination to live life fully and her refusal to give up after a dire cancer diagnosis nine years ago inspired those who knew her.
“She had a great attitude,” said her son Ricky Swaye, of Cromwell, Conn. “She looked at it clinically and not from an emotional perspective. She went through it all with a tremendous amount of courage and dignity and grace. It didn’t stop her from doing anything she wanted to do.”
Born in New Britain, Conn., on May 7, 1932, to William and Zara Kaplan, Mrs. Swaye grew up in New England. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband of more than 64 years, George, and brother Elihu Kaplan.
Mrs. Swaye worked in the family business, the S&A Dept. Store in Hartford, Conn., before entering the real estate construction business with her husband and managing and developing several commercial properties in the Hartford area.
But the real fun began when the Swayes retired to South Florida, where they spent decades together boating throughout Florida and the Bahamas.
“To them it was like living in a resort or paradise. They got to see Boca Raton grow up. It was nothing when they got here,” Ricky Swaye said.
Their lives soon focused on tennis and boating.
“My mother started the tennis club at the Yacht & Racquet Club and took them to many championships,” Ricky Swaye said. “She grew up a tennis star in New England and began winning championships at age 13.”
But their real love was boating.
“They had been certified by the Coast Guard, so they were able to chart their own courses and handle the boat in any condition, up and down the East Coast, throughout Florida, both coasts and the Bahamas. They were gone for months,” Ricky Swaye recalled.
Their preferred means of transportation was a much-treasured 36-foot Grand Banks boat, he said.
Mrs. Swaye also served as treasurer for Association “E” at the Yacht & Racquet Club until just weeks before her death. And she never lost her love of mahjong, which she played with her friends at the condo.
Next-door neighbor Sharen Cutler remembered Mrs. Swaye as a warm, smiling woman who adored children, whether they were her own grandchildren or someone else’s.
“She was just a lovely lady and a very independent person,” Cutler said.
Her son said she loved to show the kids around when they came to visit her from up North.
“It was always an opportunity for her to get to know them better and give them new experiences — to take them up and down the Intracoastal, take lessons on the tennis courts or take them fishing. She did enjoy very much an opportunity to spend time with the kids,” Ricky Swaye said.
She is survived by her sons, Daniel, and wife, Rita, of Roswell, Ga; Ricky, and wife, Marge, of Cromwell, Conn.; and Gary, of Boynton Beach; a sister, Elsa Gassner, and husband, Peter, of Sedona, Ariz.; a brother-in-law, Ronald Swaye, and wife, Maria Montanaro, of Tamarac; and four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.