The Life of Town Valued Woman Owned The Country Club, Lived the Good Life



There’s a lot of wringing of hands around Long Island Country Club in Southampton, N.Y., right now. Bekah Watson, the Watermill Conservancy president and executive director, is directing inquiries to waterconservancy.org, and the organization so far has done so quietly. According to the New York Times, Long Island Country Club (LICC) is even setting up a hotline to receive complaints and help in restoring balance at the environmentally fragile site.

But an Observer article that ran in 1993 is so moving I just can’t resist: How Town Valued Woman Operated Business as Apartment for 11 Years

Long before Beth Ford became chief executive officer of Land O’ Lakes-Long Island C.E.O. Beth came a-cheering. She had arrived at the Country Club three years before with a firm plan to revive the shambles that had been the ditched The Club. The Dylanesque mess that had spread across the site — over 200 acres once home to the primary golf course — included an outhouse that smelled like fish and sewage. It had been closed for 11 years; the Club had recycled the waste to fill its various buildings.

Beth not only revved up The Club, which reopened as a community center in 1986, but was instrumental in cleaning up the site. One of her first projects was to build a temporary dike to collect excess sewage, lagging behind whenever rain came and flooded the land.

“I’d come in here and they’d have rain over my head,” Ms. Ford says. “Some of the bathrooms weren’t working.”

Eventually Beth hired a contractor to bring in compactor. She got an idea.

“Can I have a portable bathroom?”

Beth laughs as she imagines what that would have looked like. Her wake-up call was that she needed to have the place cleaned out before her son and his friends came over to play. Beth envisioned a mechanized first-aid kit for the track, a mock wrecking crew for the homes next door, a magician for the public pool, a dumpster to collect garbage and trash and a trailer to haul it all away.

As for the athletes, Beth rented a 20-by-20 foot field house to keep them warm and dry. The club renovated each of the club’s 46 homes to include skylights, double-height porches, efficient wiring and modern kitchens and bathrooms. “As soon as we finished redoing the clubhouse,” says Beth, “we were invited by nine more golf clubs to redo their clubhouse.”

Ms. Ford married three times. She and her first husband, Mayor William A. Hartwick, IV, built a third home in Hampton Bays. (He was her key business partner in the Country Club, and later served as a town official for 28 years.) The couple later divorced. Ms. Ford moved to Dix Hills, first to raise their three kids, then became the director of a regional program to recruit young women to rural Ohio. It also had to be a place where she could have fun, so she moved the family back to the country club.

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