WATERTOWN, N.Y. —
Donald E. Lawton, 80, civic
leader and 1967 winner of the Israel Shapiro award as
Watertown’s Citizen of the Year, died on March 14, 2017,
at Samaritan Keep Home, where he resided for two and a half
He was employed by the Watertown Daily Times for more than
40 years as a copy editor, reporter and consultant in the
Mr. Lawton was born Nov. 26, 1936, in Watertown, son of John
Stewart and Edrienne Watson Lawton. His father, a native of
Evans Mills, was an officer of the Agricultural Insurance
Co. and died in Watertown on Aug. 23, 1973, at the age of
76. His mother, a native of Goderich, Ontario, died in
Watertown on March 30, 1992, at age 92. His mother was the
wartime director of the Watertown United Service
Organization clubs during World War II and the Korean War.
She also was president of the Episcopal Church Women of the
Episcopal Diocese of Central New York. On his father’s
side the Lawton family was related to Nathan Evans, the
founder of Evans Mills. On his mother’s side a
great-great-great-great-grandfather Col. Jonas Watson,
fought with the British forces at Bunker Hill in the
Revolutionary War and in 1787 and 1788 was the British
commandant of Fort Niagara.
Mr. Lawton attended Watertown schools and was a June 1954
graduate of Watertown High School where he was an honor
student and member of the National Honor Society. He
graduated in 1958 from Middlebury (Vt.) College, where he
majored in English and European history. He was a member of
the Blue Key national men’s honor society and received the
Bishop Atwood historical award at graduation. He also was a
member of the varsity soccer team and was a letterman. He
was a member of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity. He did graduate
work toward his master’s degree in American history at the
University at Buffalo.
Mr. Lawton married the former Jean Louise Nicholson,
daughter of Maitland J. and Dorothy Allen Nicholson, on
April 16, 1960, in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Watertown,
with the Rev. Robert J. Sudlow, rector, officiating. Mrs.
Lawton was employed as a nurse for Dr. John E. Scanlon,
Watertown ophthalmologist, for 29 years and later with the
Watertown Eye Center for more than five years, retiring in
He served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from
1958 to 1964. Mr. Lawton joined the staff of the Watertown
Daily Times in September 1959 and was a reporter until 1971,
when he joined the editorial copy desk. He covered Camp Drum
and other military groups, state government agencies and
sports events during his reporting time. He was on the copy
desk for more than 24 years.
He retired from the Times on March 31, 1996. At a retirement
dinner in March 1996 he was presented with certificates from
the state Senate and Assembly recognizing his civic service.
He worked with the Times on a part-time basis after his
retirement doing advance obituaries and North Country
Among the organizations Mr. Lawton was prominent in were the
Watertown Urban Mission, the Jefferson County and Black
River Valley Red Cross chapters, Syracuse Regional Red Cross
Blood Program, the New York State and Thousand Islands
preliminaries to the Miss America Pageant and St. Paul’s
Mr. Lawton was active in civic affairs. He was selected as
the winner of the Israel Shapiro award as Watertown’s
Citizen of the Year in 1967 at age 31.He was a warden of St.
Paul’s Episcopal Church in the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s. He
served several terms on the vestry and was a member of the
choir for more than 38 years and also served as a lector. He
wrote the 100th anniversary history of the parish in 1967
and the 125th anniversary history in 1992 and was chairman
of the parish’s 130th anniversary observance in June
1997.He also was chairman of the parish’s centennial
observance in 1967. He was chairman of the parish’s
historic committee which helped the church attain listings
on the national and state registers of historic places in
the spring of 1997. Mr. Lawton also served for four years as
a representative for St. Paul’s Church, Watertown, on the
board of the Shared Episcopal Ministry of Northern New York
Council, which consisted of St. Paul’s Church, Brownville,
Christ Church, Sackets Harbor, and St. John’s Church,
Mr. Lawton was active in the Jefferson County and later
Black River Valley chapter of the American Red Cross for 30
years. He was chapter chairman from 1964 to 1966. He served
as chairman of the Watertown blood program committee for 26
years and headed the overall blood program policy committee.
He received the George E. Cox award as the chapter’s
Volunteer of the Year in 1987.Mr. Lawton served as chairman
of the executive and regional committees of the Syracuse Red
Cross blood program in the 1970s and was chairman of the
Northern New York blood bank district.
Along with Joan M. Jones, Mr. Lawton headed the committee
that brought the Miss New York State preliminary to the Miss
America Pageant to Watertown in the fall of 1979.
He was the first president and executive director of
the organization and a member of the organization’s board
of directors and executive committee since the pageant came
to Watertown. Before being involved with the state Miss
America preliminary, he was the executive director of the
Miss Thousand Islands preliminary to the state and national
Miss America events for 13 years. He was presented with an
award from the state committee for 31 years’ service to
the Miss America pageant preliminary in Watertown in June
1997. He also received an award for his service from the
national pageant in January 1998.
Mr. Lawton served as president of the Greater Watertown
Jaycees in 1964-65. He was the recipient of the Jaycees’
Distinguished Service award in 1965. He was a member of the
Jefferson County and Watertown City Republican committees.
He served as Jefferson County chairman of the MORE committee
for the re-election of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1962,
was co-chairman of the campaign committee in Jefferson
County for H. Douglas Barclay when he won election to the
state Senate in 1964, was co-chairman of the re-election
committee in Jefferson County for U.S. Sen. Kenneth Keating
in 1964 and was a delegate to the New York State GOP
convention in 1962.He was a member of the South Jefferson
Lions Club and served as third vice president and a
director. He also was a director of the Watertown Lions
Mr. Lawton was chairman of the Preservation and Restoration
committee in Watertown for the national bicentennial
observance in 1976. He and his committee wrote the Historic
Homes of Watertown book sponsored by the Watertown Rotary
Club for the bicentennial.
Mr. Lawton served as chairman for Middlebury College’s
participation in the annual Higher Education Night and was
chairman of the committee for Jefferson and St. Lawrence
counties that handled the interviewing of prospective
students applying to Middlebury.
Mr. Lawton was a director of the Greater Watertown Chamber
of Commerce and was active in United Way. He served as
president of the Watertown Urban Mission in 2002 and 2003
and was a member of the board of directors for several
years. The Urban Mission made its move to its new home in
the Halley building on Factory Street during the final
months of his term as president. The Urban Mission observed
its 35th anniversary of service to Watertown and vicinity in
June 2003, while Mr. Lawton was president.
He is survived by his wife Jean, a sister , Mary L. Frohe
and her son Timothy, a brother, J. Keith Lawton and his
children, Ian, Jon, Andrea and Leanne, a brother-in-law
James Nicholson, a nephew Robert (Kathy)Nicholson and their
children, Andy and Shawn, a niece Kathy (Chris) Masi and
their children, Christopher, Libby and Joshua.
Calling hours will be 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at D.L.
Calarco Funeral Home, Inc. A prayer service will be held o10:15
a.m. Monday at the funeral home followed by a funeral
service at 11 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church with Rev. Dr.
Richard Laribee officiating. Burial will be in the spring in
Contributions may be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, 227
Sherman Street, or to the Watertown Urban Mission, 247
Factory Street, both in Watertown, NY 13601.
Condolences may be made
Information provided by D.L. Calarco Funeral Home and