Born to Walter Scott Benson, Sr. and Florence Brownlee Benson, Florence Delphine Benson bore a likeness to both in manner and appearance. She came along one year after the Treaty of Versailles ended World War I and nine years before the onslaught of the Great Depression. The dramatic swing from national optimism to despair during her early years would shape her attitudes regarding every single aspect of her life, and guided by the wisdom of her father and affection of her mother, Florence would develop into a young woman as equally focused on politics and economics as she was on art, the social graces, and raising her four girls. She was known for her sound wisdom and practicality, and her motto: moderation in all things.
As a child Florence moved a few times for a brief year or two when her father's publishing business took him for extended periods to other cities, such as Atlanta and Chicago. Her older brother of three years, Walter Scott Benson, Jr., would become her best friend and the only person ever who could challenge her. Later she would follow him to Pease Elementary School, John T. Allen Junior High, and Stephen F. Austin High School. After graduating from high school, she moved to New Orleans to attend Sophie Newcomb College for two years. She then transferred to The University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in Fine Arts, having become accomplished at painting and sketching. She would go on to illustrate a number of children's textbooks that were published by her father's company, W.S. Benson Publishing Co. But her favorite works were the watercolors she painted of the bell towers and markets of Mexico City. While at The University she was an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority, and many years later her daughters joined her.
After college Florence served with The Junior League of Austin, as well as The Junior Helping Hand and The Settlement Club. Her family were active members of St. David's Episcopal Church, where The Reverend Charles Sumner baptized all four daughters and prepared them for confirmation. After World War II, Florence met and married Louis Scott Wilkerson, a young lawyer also from Austin. Louis also had graduated from The University of Texas, and then earned a law degree from Harvard University. He served in the Air Force during WWII, most notably in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, and in the ground intelligence office in Italy. Louis later served as the Under Secretary of the Treasury for the State of Texas, and as assistant to the Texas Secretary of State for one session. Louis was a founding member of the private law firm Sneed, Vine, Wilkerson, Selman & Perry, where he often found himself mentoring younger attorneys as they joined the firm.
Florence was a devoted wife and mother. She cared for her own mother in her lingering years, as well as her daughter, Marianne, as she battled cancer. When her girls were young she would be up late making costumes and helping with homework. Then she would be up early making lunches and driving carpool. She made sure her family learned the value of getting fresh air and exercise, putting her girls in every kind of lesson that was offered at the time. She also made sure her family ate three square meals each day, hiring the retired cook for a boys' dorm. Georgie became part of the family and was given a seat with the family at the girls' weddings. Later after Georgie retired, Juanita Ruiz worked for Florence and would experience the same inclusion, still intact today.
Florence Wilkerson had a deep faith in God. Her Bible was by her bedside or couch-side at all times. When she no longer attended either St. David's Episcopal Church or Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, she would watch several worship services on TV each Sunday morning. She especially liked watching the Billy Graham Crusades through the years. She was known for her dignity and grace under pressure, and her daughters, and later sons-in-law, would seek her advice on all kinds of matters. She had an acute business sense and became the bookkeeper for the Benson Publishing Company. She taught her daughters about investing and using what you have. She loved to laugh at a good joke, but it had to be good, or silly. She loved her grandchildren, chocolate and all the pets that her daughters would bring home. She made sure her daughters knew how to sew, swim and call home. She was a great mom.
Florence Benson Wilkerson was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Louis Wilkerson, and her eldest daughter, Marianne Wilkerson Jackson. She is survived by daughter Louise Wilkerson Brollier, and husband, Stephen Brollier, of Houston, along with their children, John Brollier, and his wife Lauren, Benjamin Brollier, and Mary Brollier, by daughter Florence Wilkerson Erwin and her husband, Mike Erwin, of Austin, and by daughter Diane Wilkerson Douglas, and her husband Todd Douglas, of Austin, and their children, Robert Douglas, William Douglas, and Stephen Douglas. She is also survived by her beloved grandchildren, Margaret Jackson, and her husband Eric Utermohlen, of Houston, Philip Jackson, of Austin, and by her son-in-law, David Jackson, his wife, Robin Jackson, and their sons, Ben and Becker Jackson, as well as her older brother, Walter Scott Benson, Jr., of Austin, her niece Barbara Padgett and her husband, Bill Padgett, and her nephew Scott Benson and his wife, Cindy Benson.
The family would like to thank all who cared for Florence in her final days, especially Dr. I. Momin, and the nurses and staff of Seton Hospital. A special thanks to her (and our) dear friend Marsha Walker, who became an invaluable source of strength, comfort and love. And what would we have done without our beloved Meg, Florence's granddaughter, and an M.D. and surgical resident in Houston, who poured herself into her grandmother's care? The family would also like to thank family and friends near and far who have prayed and supported Florence and her family.
The funeral service will be held on Saturday, April 1st, at 2:00 pm, at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 1500 N. Capital of Texas Hwy. Austin, TX 78746, with the Reverend Ann Hoey and the Reverend Brin Bon presiding. A private burial of the ashes will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association or to St. Michaels's Episcopal Church in memory of Florence.