LOCKHAVEN, PA: Beloved mother and children's author Margaret Sutton, age 98, died on June 21, 2001 at Lockhaven Hospital. She authored the well-loved Judy Bolton Mystery Series, which sold more than 5 million copies. Generations of young people grew up with the 38 volume series and saw its heroine, Judy Bolton, as a friend and role model who exemplified integrity and courage. The fictional towns that provided the books' locale were based on Coudersport, Austin, and other towns in Potter County, Pennsylvania, where the author grew up. The first book in the series, The Vanishing Shadow, was based on the tragic bursting of the Austin dam in 1911, and succeeding books were also based on actual events. Mrs. Sutton also wrote numerous stories for children and young adults, including Palace Wagon Family (a story of the Donner Party), Jemima, Daughter of Daniel Boone and the Gail Gardner nurse series.
She was born January 22, 1903 in Odin, Pennsylvania and named Rachel Beebe. She said she gained her love of history and literature from her father, Victor Beebe, a well-known historian, musician and carpenter, and her love of art and storytelling from her mother, Estella Andrews Beebe. She attended public schools in Coudersport and graduated from Rochester Business Institute in Rochester, NY in 1920. She worked for several years as a secretary and in the printer's trade. She met William Sutton at a church dance in New York City, and soon they were exchanging poems and playing chess together. After their marriage in 1924, she began writing stories for her husband's daughter, Dorothy. Her first Judy Bolton Mystery was published in 1932 under the pen name Margaret Sutton. She and William lived on Long Island, New York and had five children. They were founding members and board members of the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Freeport, NY. She was the congregation's first Sunday school teacher and wrote a religious education curriculum, Letters to Live By, which was published in Sunday school magazines and taught in churches across the country. She hosted the annual Artists andWriters Teas, which included seminars and exhibits with Long Island's finest authors and artists and which raised thousands of dollars for the church.
In addition to writing, Mrs. Sutton taught creative writing in adult education classes and saw many of her students become published authors. She was a popular public speaker and a member of the Author's League and the Women's National Book Association. She was active in social causes, advocating for fair housing and joining the historic March on Washington for civil rights in 1964. Later that same year, she and her husband celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. He died in 1965.
She traveled extensively, visiting her growing family and a wide circle of friends. In 1975 she married Everett Hunting, a retired ceramic engineer and long-time family friend. They honeymooned throughout Europe and made their home in Berkeley, California. Margaret became a Sunday school teacher in Kensington and taught creative writing classes in Berkeley. Mr. Hunting died in 1993 shortly after the couple moved to Pennsylvania.
Margaret Sutton's fans began a series book collector's club, The Phantom Friends, which publishes a newsletter and holds annual reunions around the country. The annual Judy Bolton Weekend is held in Coudersport, sponsored by the Potter County Library and the Coudersport Chamber of Commerce. A web page, www.judybolton.com, gives information about the series and its author.
Margaret Sutton Hunting is survived by her children Dorothy Wolfe of Napa, California, Marjorie Eckstein of Melville, New York, Eleanor Kratzat of Stanley, Wisconsin, Thomas Sutton of Uniondale, New York, and Linda Stroh of Catonsville, Maryland, 14 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great grandchildren. Her older son, Lloyd Sutton, preceded her in death.
A memorial service will be held at the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist
Congregation, 280 South Ocean Avenue in Freeport, New York, on Saturday, July
14 at 3 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Author's
League Fund, which helps elderly and disabled authors with health and other emergency
expenses, at 21 East 28th Street, New York 10016. A service to celebrate Mrs.
Sutton's life will also be held in Coudersport in October.