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“If you didn’t know David Newton, you missed out on a lot.”
Those were the words of Wayne Puckett, a Clay Village resident, in describing his friend, David Lawson Newton, who passed away last week.
Newton, a 4-term magistrate and prominent businessman in Shelby County, died Saturday in Louisville. He was 83.
“Dave was easy going, always happy and laid back, always willing to do anything for anybody,” Puckett said. “He was one of my best friends, and I’m really going to miss him.”
Born July 30, 1929, to the late Samuel David Newton and Mary Bess Lawson Newton, Dave Newton was a farmer who owned and operated Big Top Tobacco Warehouse in Shelbyville and served as a Shelby County magistrate for 16 years in the 1970s and ‘80s.
He was a member of the Mason Lodge No. 5 for more than 50 years, a graduate of Henry Clay High School and a member of Clay Village Baptist Church.
For the past several years, he shared his life with his companion, Glenna Smith of Frankfort.
“He and I were together for fifteen years; we went everywhere and did everything together,” she said. “He was a good-hearted person. He was always wanting to help people and do things for them.”
That quality endeared him to many, said another friend, Roy Foster, who served with Newton on the Shelby County Fiscal Court back in the 1970s, when Sammy Woods was county’s judge-executive.
“He was a very pleasant person. You would definitely have to call him a people person,” Foster said. “He had a great rapport with everyone, he got along with people very well, but when it came to down to important business, you could count on him to have a good, no-nonsense, intelligent head on his shoulders. He was a great asset to the fiscal court and to the entire county. He was involved in a lot of important decisions concerning the county.”
Newton was a magistrate in District 5, although in those days, Foster said, they didn’t refer to various areas of the county by district, only by location, with Newton serving in the Clay Village area.
Foster said that one of the more memorable projects that he and Newton worked on together was helping to get Clear Creek Park established when the land was acquired from Birch family.
“When he and I worked together on the fiscal court, he was chairman of the finance committee, and he played a key role in helping to get Clear Creek Park established in 1974,” he said. “It was my recommendation that we do it, and he agreed and supported it. “
That achievement remained a source of pride, Smith said.
“His name is on the plaque as you go in the gate [at the park],” she said.
Smith said one thing that not many knew about Newton is that he had a creative side.
“He wrote poems; he had one published several years ago,” she said. “He loved to write stories, and tell stories, and he was very smart and a Civil War buff. He could tell you anything about it. And he dearly loved his Sunday school class.”
Puckett, who teaches the adult Sunday school class at Clay Village Baptist Church, where Newton attended for many years, chuckled when he recalled Newton’s fondness for spinning tales.
“Dave was always telling jokes, and he could tell some of the best stories you ever heard,” he said. “And we’d always just sit back and listen, and somebody’d say, ‘Now, Dave, are you sure that’s true?’”
Puckett said Newton loved the class and never missed attending until he became ill in recent years.
“He sure loved the Lord; he could quote the Bible inside and out,” he said. “But he’s been fighting a tough battle for the last three years. He has been in and out of the hospital and in the nursing home.”
Smith said Newton has been at Oak Lawn nursing home in Middletown for the past three years.
But even through failing health, even at the nursing home, his love for people shined through, Puckett said.
“Everybody, the nurses and everybody, fell in love with him there,” he said. “If you were down, he could bring you back up again like nobody I’ve ever seen. He just had that gift. He did a lot for the church and for the community. I’ve never heard anything but good things about him.”