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Epilogue | Ronald A. Beaton Jr.

Ronald A. Beaton Jr.: Member of pioneer family served as quiet anchor in his own

ST. PETERSBURG — Ronald A. Beaton Jr. came from a well-known family with 19th-century roots in St. Petersburg.

The names of his grandfather Boxford Chandler "Chan" Neeld and that of another relative are memorialized in Pioneer Park.

His mother, Martha Neeld Beaton, was a Junior League volunteer of the year referenced in frequent newspaper articles with a tone of familiarity.

His father, Ronald A. "Red" Beaton Sr., slummed famously with other up-and-coming bachelors in what they called the "Zylch house," on his way to a successful stockbroking career.

Ronald A. Beaton Jr. sold printing supplies and was either working on some project at home or helping neighbors with theirs.

He was proud of his family and happy to grow old in the hometown they helped establish. He missed the way it used to be when he was young, when 22nd Avenue N didn't pass over the railroad tracks. Back then, he and his siblings played among stacks of feed — as their mother had once played — at the Neeld-Gordon feed store, one of the city's oldest, established around 1913 by Boxford Neeld.

They made friends with cats the owners kept around to hunt for mice, then watched as locals came to take home kittens born in dark corners. In 1925, the store moved to 1258 19th St. N, now called the Neeld-Gordon Garden Center.

His family's history here began much earlier, in 1871, when William P. Neeld — Boxford's father and Mr. Beaton's great-grandfather — moved to Pinellas County. At age 22, Neeld bought 40 acres in Pinellas Point and planted orange trees.

Ronald Alexander Beaton Jr. entered the family Jan. 20, 1942, the eldest of five children.

They kept a strict routine. Meals arrived at 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. daily.

"It was formal," said Mr. Beaton's niece, Louise Boyd. "He had his cloth napkin, he had his water glass, he had his coffee. It was expected, and everybody knew that this is the procedure."

Mr. Beaton's low-key demeanor helped keep his more rambunctious siblings calm.

"My uncle was the one who tried to keep everybody straight," said Boyd. "My mom (Bonnie Beaton) was high-spirited. It was my uncle's job to rein her in."

He graduated from Northeast High, attended St. Petersburg Junior College. In the early 1960s, he was named the "best-dressed man in St. Petersburg."

"It was kind of funny, because he really couldn't have cared less," said Sandy Beaton, Mr. Beaton's wife.

Mr. Beaton joined the Coast Guard, then signed up for 16 years in its Reserves.

"He was a hard worker, but he was not ever going to measure up to what my grandfather expected," said Boyd, 42. "But my grandfather always expected more than anybody could have provided, and he had to live with that."

Mr. Beaton was managing a cafeteria in the mid 1960s when he noticed a young woman lunching with her grandfather.

He had a waiter deliver a note.

"It said he wanted to meet me," said Sandy Beaton, 65. "We married six months later."

They lived together quietly, without children, for 44 years. He enjoyed NASCAR on television and barbecuing ribs and turkeys on a backyard smoker.

He built a two-bedroom cabin in the North Carolina hills. The couple took lots of cruises. They doted on their basset hounds, Molly and Phoebe.

Over the last decade, Mr. Beaton's diabetes cut into his plans. Two of his sisters also experienced worsening health.

On Sept. 13, Margaret Tharp died at 60. On Nov. 19, Bonnie Beaton died at 65.

Mr. Beaton, who had hoped to retire in the home he built in North Carolina, died Tuesday at Woodside Hospice. He was 68.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or

. biography

Ronald Alexander Beaton Jr.

Born: Jan. 20, 1942.

Died: Dec. 7, 2010.

Survivors: Wife Alberta "Sandy" Beaton; sister Mary Beaton; brother John Riley.

Ronald A. Beaton Jr.: Member of pioneer family served as quiet anchor in his own 12/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 11, 2010 6:53pm]
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