Monday, September 2, 2013

The end of the last long weekend

A man and his dog. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, September 2,  2013. The end of the last long weekend of the Summer. Sunday was off and on overcast in New York. I was up in Connecticut where they got torrents of rain in the late afternoon as we were driving back to the City where it remained dry as a bone.

NYSD readers may have seen the two re-runs from Ellen Glendinning Frazer Ordway’s great collection of personal photographs taken between the late 1920s through the 1960s this past Friday (edited and organized beautifully by Augustus Mayhew). This great collection is one of the rare personal documents of the history of American society in the 20th century. As it was accumulated purely as a personal hobby, to which Mrs. Ordway was devoted all her life, it achieved a rare sort of authenticity.

This past, Saturday, the day after we ran it, we received a message from a reader that one of the women who often appears in Mrs. Ordway’s photos, Lucille Balcom -- always known to her friends and family as Lulu -- had died last Thursday afternoon at her summer home on Fisher’s Island at the age of 100, only two months from her 101st birthday.
Lulu and Ronald Balcom.
Mrs. Balcom was born Louise Parsons in Montclair, New Jersey on November 1, 1912. Her father J. Lester Parsons founded the international re-insurance firm of Crum & Forster in 1896. 

Lulu grew up on the family estate in Orange, New Jersey and attended Miss Porter’s in Farmington Connecticut. When she was 23, in 1935, she married her first husband, George Vanderbilt, the son of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Sr. who had died in 1915 in the sinking of the Luisitania, and Margaret Emerson who was widely known as the “Bromo-Seltzer” heiress. The Vanderbilts had one daughter, also named Lucille.

Fifteen years later in 1950, the Vanderbilts divorced and Lulu married Ronald Bush Balcom, a champion skier who had previous attained celebrity when he married Standard Oil heiress Millicent Rogers.
Reggie Boardman and Lulu Balcom, 1960. "I remember Ellen and Lou, they were our close friends," recalled Mrs. Balcom when Augustus Mayhew spoke with her recently in Palm Beach.
Mrs. Balcom was herself an excellent skier and the couple – known to their friends as Ronnie and Lulu, lived in Palm Beach in winter and Fishers Island in summer, spending as much time as they could skiing in Klosters, Switzerland and Vail, Colorado. Mr. Balcom died in 1994.

Mrs. Balcom was also an avid golfer and often wore a round gold pendant with 19 small diamonds marking the “Hole In Ones” that she made in her lifetime, the first of which she made when she was 16.
Lulu Balcom's birthday party, October 1960: Lulu Balcom, Ronald Balcom, and Court Reventlow.
Lou Ordway's birthday dinner, December 2, 1960: Lou Ordway, Lulu Balcom, and Jack Stearns.
Lulu Balcom's birthday party. November 1, 1961, Palm Beach.
She and her sister, Emily Parson Ridgeway, who is now 103, and lives in New Jersey, have belonged to the Everglades and Bath and Tennis clubs longer then anyone in history.

Mrs. Balcom was also a talented artist, well known for her unique, primitive paintings. Most of her original works depict scenes from the Caribbean and New England. Her greatest love in life was traveling, and there were few places in the world she had not been. Like her friend Ellen Ordway she too accumulated a huge collection of leather bound books documenting her life in photographs.
Christmas card, 1961. Chalet Aurora, Klosters. Lulu and Ron Balcom.
Her friends remember Lulu Balcom as a fascinating lovely woman, kind and gracious, beautiful and chic, and liked by everyone she met, to the very end.

Besides her sister, she is survived by her daughter Lucille Vanderbilt Pate, two grandsons, Phillip V. Brady and Robert M. Balding, and granddaughter Dawn B. Pate. She is also survived by four great-granddaughters Allston Pate, Emerson Pate, Margaret Balding and Sara Balding, all of Georgetown, South Carolina. In addition, she is survived by her sister Emily Parsons Ridgway of Short Hills, and a step-sister Mrs. Horace Bailey. Mrs. Ridgeway, known as “Queeny” all her life, is now 103.
Lulu, Chocomount, Fishers Island, July 1962.
Lulu Balcom and George Coleman, Palm Beach, October 1962.
SS United States advertisement, LIFE magazine. Lulu and Ron Balcom with Mrs. André Embiricos aboard the SS United States.
Lulu Balcom's birthday dinner, Palm Beach, November, 1963.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you donate to the Island Health Project, PO Box 344, Fishers Island, NY 06390.
Ellen Ordway's photographs are from the Collection of
Gayle Abrams©.

Contact DPC here.