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Don Seaton: Well-known local hotelier and longtime champion of Clearwater Beach

Well-known hotelier Don Seaton died last month at age 76 from injuries he suffered in an accident in Colorado.
Well-known hotelier Don Seaton died last month at age 76 from injuries he suffered in an accident in Colorado.
Published Oct. 15, 2015

Don Seaton came to Clearwater from California decades ago almost on a dare.

An owner of a struggling Travelodge in the city's downtown offered him 51 percent of the business if he could turn it around.

"So he piled us all in the car, and we moved to Florida," his son Daryl Seaton said recently.

The elder Seaton did, in fact, turn things around. The first business he brought in was by convincing the Philadelphia Phillies to stay there during spring training. Soon after, Mr. Seaton purchased his first hotel at Clearwater Beach, another Travelodge.

Mr. Seaton later owned and operated three additional hotels on Clearwater Beach, two inns in Glenwood Springs, Colo., a resort in Crystal River and one in Badin, N.C.

Mr. Seaton, who became one of the best known local hoteliers and one of Clearwater Beach's most dedicated cheerleaders, died last month at the age of 76 from injuries sustained in an accident in Colorado.

Sheraton Sand Key Resort general manager Russ Kimball said he and Mr. Seaton promoted Clearwater Beach for almost 40 years. Kimball noted that even though Mr. Seaton was a busy man, he made sure that his family was included.

"We worked side by side with our families promoting Clearwater Beach," he said. "We would take our families with us to trade shows. The kids would be in the back putting together brochures, and we would be out front handing them out."

His wife and children were the most important things in his life, his son said.

"If he had to travel, he took us with him," he said. "We got to see the world as a family."

Mr. Seaton was born in Albany, Calif., in 1938 and earned a degree in business management from San Jose State University. He and his wife, Nan, loved to water ski in the summer and snow ski in the winter, so they moved to Lake Tahoe, where he took a job as a high school teacher, and they began to live their dream. They had their three children, Daryl, Leni and Wendy.

When Mr. Seaton's father retired, he invested his retirement money in a Travelodge in Lake Tahoe, and Mr. Seaton helped him run it. That's what led him to meet the owner of the Clearwater Travelodge at a hotel convention.

Mr. Seaton also served in many professional organizations in the hotel industry, including terms as president of the Greater Clearwater Innkeepers Association, vice chairman of the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council and served as chairman, treasurer, secretary and board member of the Florida Hotel & Motel Association. He was also a regional governor and director of Best Western and vice chairman and chairman of the board of Best Western International.

Clearwater Attorney John Doran said their common interest in Clearwater often put them in the same place at the same time.

"He was a force to be reckoned with," Doran said. "He had the ability to focus on an issue at hand and form a solid argument. He was a good business citizen and a go-to guy for the community."

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Mr. Seaton was also active in the civic community and served as president of the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Clearwater Beach, director of Morton Plant Hospital and chairman of St. Paul's School. Anne Garris, who served with Mr. Seaton on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Clearwater Beach Planning, remembered his enthusiasm for life and concern for the community.

"He was a gentleman in all his dealings," she said. "He was one of the few people who could disagree with you — and he and I disagreed frequently — but he was always respectful."

Mr. Seaton was an avid golfer, skier and snow boarder. Up until last year, he served on the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol, working the mountain on his snowboard, helping tourists and being the eyes and ears of the patrol.

"He had a zest for life," Daryl said. "He never sat still. He was so tightly scheduled that if he made a golf date with you, it might be for some random time like 4:15. You knew he was fitting you in. He and my mom already had 2016 completely planned out."

Daryl Seaton said his father was a driven man, but not so much by love of the game, but more so by love for his family.

"He wanted to succeed for us," he said. "He wanted his kids to have more than he had. It was always all about family."

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