Elspeth Penny Campbell Lawton
Born: 8/20/1926, Berlin, South Africa
Penny was born on a farm in Berlin, South Africa, on Aug. 20, 1926, to parents Marjorie (a teacher), and Patrick Young (a farmer and later a mining engineer). She grew up speaking English and a Bantu native language, Xhosa, as well as a bit of Afrikaans. She attended the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, graduated with a degree in social work and worked as a psychiatric social worker. While at university, Penny met and in 1951, married, Mervyn Dendy Lawton.
In 1957, with three young children, the couple pursued a fresh beginning for their family in a new and very different land. The five immigrated to Ontario, Canada, where Mervyn began working for Rio Algom mines. Their first experience with snow was immediate and necessitated a crash course in winter clothing and runny noses. Summer brought new challenges such as the infamous North Ontario blackflies and the enticing wild raspberry brambles, which once ensnared their youngest, until he was rescued after hours of frantic searching. Penny found her footing in this new land, as she always did, and it was there that the couple had two more children. In 1966, the family of seven moved to the new mining town site of Lac La Ronge in Northern Saskatchewan. Again Penny employed her perseverance to make a home in a different world and immersed herself in the life and culture of a small community.
In 1971, Penny experienced her final move, which was to be Moab, Utah. She felt blessed to have found this warm and caring community of diverse people, and found that the plant life reminded her of her South African roots. She truly loved it here. An avid bird lover as well as a consummate gardener and entertainer, many will remember Penny’s tea parties or curry parties with splendid desserts and fresh flowers. Others will recall seeing the Lawton family with at least two dachshunds in tow. Penny received many recognitions and certificates of appreciation for her community endeavors and 10 years of volunteer work for Four Corners Community Behavioral Health. She was a member of the St. Clare’s Guild and served a term as Senior Warden at St. Francis Episcopal Church.
In 1992, Penny battled and won her fight with esophageal cancer with strength and tenacity. She attributed that success not only to all of the angels of the health care community, but also to the support of her strong network of friends, fellow church members and family. She lived the rest of her years exemplifying her extraordinary qualities. Wisdom, strength, tenacity, elegance, grace…wrapped up in a tiny package of flesh and bone, held together with the spirit of a lioness.
“Death comes when the energy within can no longer be contained by the weakened body.”(Unattributed)
Penny is survived by her five children, five grandchildren and a 6-month-old great-grandson: Dr. Wendy Lawton of Metamora, Michigan, as well as her three grown children that include Dr. Gillian Grafton (married to Cam Gzym, and their son Graham), Antonia Grafton and Nicholas Grafton; Mark Lawton (Jane) of Vancouver, Canada, and their two grown daughters, Samantha and Claire Lawton; Bruce Lawton (Peggy) of Salt Lake City, Utah; as well as daughter, Judy Lawton, and son, Tim Lawton, both of Salt Lake City, Utah.
A memorial service for Penny Lawton will be held at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Moab, on Saturday, April 23, starting at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages friends to make a donation to The Nature Conservancy in support of their efforts in Utah and the preservation of the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands.
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