Rita Paon

105, of the ‘Birthday Cake’ House
Rita Paon, 105, of the ‘Birthday Cake’ House

Rita Paon, who lived for about 80 years in Montauk, died there on July 16. She was 105.

Born in Arichat, Nova Scotia, to Walter Briand and the former Marie Des Roches, Ms. Paon, one of 10 children, at age 16 came to Montauk — at the time a small fishing village very like Arichat — to join her father and a sister. Her mother died when she was 6.

She married a young man who had lived across the street from her family in Arichat. Two of her sisters married two of his brothers, and they settled in Montauk as well. Other siblings remained in Canada.

Clarence and Rita Paon lived in the old fishing village on Fort Pond Bay until the 1938 Hurricane. On the day of the storm, which wiped out much of the village, it was someone’s birthday, and a cake was on the table, ready to eat, when the couple had to flee to higher ground. When the hurricane passed they returned to the house, which had sustained exterior damage, and found the cake intact. It has been known as the Birthday Cake House ever since.

They moved the house, after renovations, to Edgemere Street, where she died.

In 1947 the Paons opened Clarence’s Grocery Store on Main Street in Montauk. Mr. Paon died in 1958, and Ms. Paon continued to run the store until 1970, when she opened a new store with her son, Ronald, who survives. They called it Ronnie’s Grocery and Deli. She walked to work there until she retired in 1976. Ronnie’s was sold in April 2012 and closed about six months later.

Ms. Paon loved spending time with her family and friends and enjoyed card games, pinochle and canasta, and bingo. They would bet for food items, such as a stick of butter, rather than money, her son said.

She never got a driver’s license, which did not stop her from attending church services at St. Therese of Lisieux, where she was a member of the Altar Society and the Rosary Society. A funeral Mass was celebrated there on Friday, followed by burial at Most Holy Trinity Cemetery in East Hampton. 

Memorial donations have been suggested for St. Therese Church, 67 South Essex Street, Montauk 11954, and the Montauk Fire Department, 12 Flamingo Avenue, Montauk 11954.