Blanche Robertson Bacon ’53HS ’55C
October 2, 1935 – June 16, 2021
Saint Mary’s lost a great alumna, supporter, cheerleader, and friend when Blanche Robertson Bacon ’53HS ’55C died June 16, 2021, in Raleigh. Born in Salisbury, North Carolina, on October 2, 1935, to Blanche Spencer and Julian Hart Robertson, she attended Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, graduating from the high school in 1953 and the junior college in 1955.
At age 20, Blanche married Benjamin Robert Williamson of Raleigh and they had three children, the oldest of whom, Robert, predeceased her in 2012.
In the mid-1970s, Blanche joined the workforce as a salesperson at Montaldo’s and then became a realtor, eventually serving as relocation director of Bacon & Co., Zack Bacon’s residential real-estate firm.
At Saint Mary’s, Blanche was a student leader, serving on the Legislative Body, the Belles staff, and as assembly chairman, along with memberships in the Dramatics Club, the Y.W.C.A., Canterbury Club, Spanish Club, and MU athletics society.
As an alumna, Blanche led the way and devoted herself in extraordinary ways to serving her alma mater. She was a member of the Alumnae Council before serving a total of 16 years on the Board of Trustees, answering the call each time it came for another term. She served as vice chair of the Board of Trustees and, throughout her tenure as a board member, on every possible committee and sub-committee. She served as a member of the Board of Visitors and, along with husband Zack, served as a leader in the last three capital campaigns at the school, most recently being instrumental in the launch of the current Saint Mary's Forever Campaign.
Blanche was a member of the head of school search committee that brought Theo Wilkes Coonrod to Saint Mary’s and co-chair of the committee that coordinated the installation of Coonrod as the 12th head of school.
Blanche was the honorary chair of the 2005 auction gala and the first recipient of the Mazie Strickland Froelich ’51C Society Outstanding Alumna Award in 2000. She served as honorary chair of Saint Mary’s 175th gala celebration in 2017.
She is the namesake and heart and soul of the Blanche Robertson Bacon and Honors Scholarship, which transformed the boarding program at Saint Mary’s when it was endowed and established by her brother, Julian Robertson, and his late wife, Josie, in 2001. She took a personal interest in each of the Blanche Scholars, treating them to special outings and dinners around Raleigh, and a commencement day for one of the “Blanches” always included a beautifully wrapped gift from Blanche.
Her special touch could be felt in other areas of student life. She often shared tickets to special events, making a night at the North Carolina Symphony or Carolina Ballet possible for an aspiring young musician or dancer. In 2001, she lent her support to The Echo, a senior singing group, which she helped create and supported in all the years thereafter. The founding Echo members inducted her as an honorary member to show their love and appreciation.
Blanche was the 2009 recipient of the John Bratton Jr. Volunteer Service Recognition Award, awarded on rare occasions to those who have served Saint Mary’s with distinction for decades.
“When you mentioned the name Blanche to Saint Mary’s students, they have a perfect model of a devoted, generous, kind, and fun-loving alumna who gave endlessly of herself alma mater and its girls,” said former Head of School Theo Coonrod at the Bratton Award presentation.
Blanche Bacon was an outstanding trustee because she was both a leader in forging a clear path forward for Saint Mary’s as it made its transition and a leader in reaching out to others to generate support for the school she loved," said former Saint Mary's College President Clauston Jenkins. "It is not an exaggeration to say that Blanche’s leadership was a significant factor in making Saint Mary’s the institution it is today. She truly made a difference."
Outside of the gates at Saint Mary’s, Blanche was an active community leader and volunteer. She was a member of the Junior League of Raleigh, and in 2001 was Honorary Chair of the North Carolina Debutante Ball. She was a Wake County member of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of North Carolina and was generous to its preservation efforts. She was honored by the North Carolina Museum of History for her long-term support in 2012. She was a director of Wake Med from 2000 to 2005 and was for 17 years on the board of visitors at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Reflecting her interest in young people, she served as a director of the Wake County Boys and Girls Clubs for 24 years, bought uniforms for its basketball teams, and in 1993 was elected the first woman ever to chair the board. The organization elected her to its Hall of Fame in 2003.
She was a devoted member of Christ Church in Raleigh, where her enduring connection was established in her early years in Raleigh. She would later serve as a Sunday School teacher and win election to the church’s vestry. In 2018 the church recognized her and her second husband, Zack Hampton Bacon Jr., whom she married in 1980, with the Christ Church Cross for their distinguished and generous service.
Blanche is survived by her cherished husband of 41 years, Zack; and by two children living in Raleigh, Blanche Williamson ’76HS and Saint Mary’s trustee Julian Williamson; and two daughters-in-law: Julian’s wife, Beth, and Caroline Williamson of New York City. Also surviving are six perfect grandchildren: Caroline Williamson of Seattle; Rob Williamson of New York; Wyndham Williamson of Los Angeles; and three Raleigh sisters, Pell Williamson ’18, Blanche Williamson, and Elizabeth Williamson ’23. A bonus from the marriage to Zack are his three surviving sons Zack, Louis, and Bart, and 13 step-grandchildren. Blanche is also survived by her loving siblings, Wyndham Robertson of Chapel Hill, and Julian Robertson of New York City, along with his three sons and their wives, and his nine grandchildren.
Blanche and Zack were among the earliest to discover the charms of Figure Eight Island, a place they both loved, and where she spent many happy days on the dock of the house she and Zack maintained there, teaching their grandchildren, and other people’s children and grandchildren, how to bait hooks and reel in fish.
A memorial service will be held at Christ Church at 2 p.m., Wednesday, June 23, followed by a reception at the Carolina Country Club. She will be interred in the Christ Church Memorial Garden in a private ceremony. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any memorials be sent to Saint Mary’s School (900 Hillsborough St. Raleigh 27603), Christ Church (120 E Edenton St. Raleigh 27601), Boys & Girls Clubs (701 N. Raleigh Blvd. Raleigh 27610), or to any deserving charity. Funeral arrangements are handled by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
(Christ's words, from the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:14-16 NRSV)