Before ever visiting Naples, Sue Dalton found the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Many of the scenic peaks of this range are within a two-hour drive of Charlotte, where she and her late husband, William (Bill) Dalton, once owned two radio stations. The Daltons fell in love with the region and in 1995 bought a model home in Linville Ridge, a private golf course community situated on 1,500 acres and located 4,949 feet above sea level in the heart of the High Country.
Born and raised in California, Sue moved to Washington, D.C. in the 1970s to continue a sales career in the radio broadcasting industry, thriving in what she considers a “fortunate time to be involved”—when affirmative action took center stage. She met Bill, who was on his way to becoming a radio broadcast pioneer, in Washington, D.C., the city she once considered “a sleepy little town.” In 1981, the couple, who were by then married, formed the Dalton Group, entering a 35-year period of radio ownership. Included in their portfolio were WGRR in Cincinnati, Ohio, WXTR in D.C., and two stations in Charlotte: WWMG and WEND.
Sue enjoyed the formality of D.C. and the proximity to the political institution, though the nation’s capital presented a very different pace and tone from the West Coast. In fact, she admits experiencing “culture shock” when she first relocated. Although the Daltons worked in the private sector, she admits “we spun in lots of circles.” The hardworking couple formed many lifelong friendships and were actively involved with numerous charitable organizations during their many years in the country’s capital.
Their model mountain home was enjoyed for 12 years, but with three grown children and seven grands, the Daltons soon outgrew it. In 2007 they chanced upon an 8,600-square-foot home under construction in Linville Ridge. “It was our dream home,” says Sue. With its uniquely beautiful scenery and an average daily summer temperature of 75 degrees, it is not surprising the Daltons made another purchase in the community that includes multiple amenities and a golf course boasting the highest elevation east of the Mississippi River.
Dianne Davant of Dianne Davant & Associates, an interior designer with offices in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and Stuart, Florida, was hired to help complete the interior of the new home. Sue especially credits the creativity of Pam McKay, senior interior designer at Dianne Davant & Associates, for realizing a chic mountain retreat filled with stone, wood, rich colors, and hearty fabrics.
Although the mountains present a very short growing season, Sue splurged on the landscaping for the home, which sits on approximately two acres. “We actually get to enjoy three seasons,” she explains about their four-month long stay: “late spring, summer, and early fall.”
She envisioned waterfalls amidst a beautiful garden in the hilly and rugged terrain; Wayne Brewer of Brewer Landscaping & Clearing, in Old Fort, North Carolina, was enlisted to create two separate falls that cascade through the front yard and empty into a pond near the home’s entrance. A plush display of ferns, dahlias, rhododendrons, laurel, and various species of evergreen trees grows amongst groupings of large rocks and stone paths, showcasing a spectacular entrance to the home.
Not until you enter the home and walk out on the expansive back porch, however, do you observe the impressive miles-long view—seven different mountain ranges to the south and west. If you visit in the evening, you witness the sun setting over eastern Tennessee, a nearly nightly ritual for Sue and guests.
When Bill and Sue first bought in Linville Ridge, they were not acquainted with the Lutgert name. (The Lutgert Companies began developing Linville Ridge in 1978.) They soon discovered that many of their Linville neighbors also owned homes in Naples, where the late Raymond Lutgert transformed the Naples beachfront—now known as Park Shore—in the early ’60s and was involved with numerous other developments in Naples.
The Daltons visited Southwest Florida and purchased a home, first choosing Bonita Springs for its proximity to the airport; in 1996, they purchased in the golfing community of Grey Oaks, joining multiple other Neapolitans who make the yearly trek between what Sue refers to as “paradise north and paradise south,” from the beginning of June “until the mountains are ablaze with fall foliage.”
In 2012, Sue lost Bill to lung cancer. She still maintains the vacation schedule—now visiting with her significant other, Paul O’Neil. Together they enjoy golf, sunsets, visiting with family and friends, and a pleasant change of scenery from Naples.
Blooming Where Planted
“I believe we give back what we are given and that we get back more than we ever give,” says Sue Dalton when asked what inspires her to become philanthropically involved in the community in which she lives.
Following a successful career, Sue found causes that touched her heart, like cancer-fighting initiatives, Naples Community Hospital (NCH), and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. With her marketing background, she is a natural for helping raise awareness for various causes. In fact, it was Sue who helped create the Conservancy’s major fundraiser, Magic Under the Mangroves, suggesting bringing people right to the location for maximum impact, in this case the Conservancy grounds. She has served two terms on the Conservancy’s board and as secretary for the board chair of the major fundraiser.
Sue also created and funded the Susan and William Dalton Discovery Center, which opened in 2012 at the Conservancy. “Version 2.0,” she calls it, opened in 2022, offering upgraded exhibits, updated and impactful messaging, and a variety of hands-on experiences. She is hopeful that more people will be encouraged to take action to protect the unique environment of Southwest Florida; she is dedicated to furthering the mission of the Conservancy, phrasing it: “to protect our water, land, wildlife, and our future.”
Rob Moher, president and CEO for the Conservancy, considers Sue a leading voice for the organization. “Her passion, vision, and networking skills have enabled her to successfully connect people to a mission,” he says. “She remains an enthusiastic volunteer, and she’s not done yet.”
Along with her work with the Conservancy, Sue has served as a trustee for NCH for two years, chairing the marketing committee. She also funded and created the William and Susan Dalton Oncology Unit, as well as the Garden of Hope and Courage—a healing garden located on NCH grounds; she has also chaired the board of this garden. In the past, Sue has served on boards for the Collier Community Foundation’s Women of Initiative (2008) and the newly renamed Baker Senior Center Naples.
Though officially retired, Sue spends time every day lending her talents to charitable organizations committed to making the world a better place—continuing to create beauty wherever she resides.