PHOENIX, Arizona - The tennis family mourns the passing of Florence Blanchard, a contributor in so many areas of our sport and, in particular, a pioneer for women as tennis umpires. Blanchard passed away on March 10, 2017 at the age of 96.
Blanchard, who was born in Maine in 1920, was a tennis novice when she married umpire Winslow ‘Mike’ Blanchard in 1950. But, not wanting to be left idling on the sidelines, she learned the game quickly and officiated at her first match at the Massachusetts State Championships later that same year.
During the four-decade officiating career that followed, Blanchard umpired the finals of the US Championships on seven occasions. In 1973, she was appointed professional tour umpire of the USTA Women’s circuit and also the Virginia Slims Circuit. Among an array of firsts, she became the first woman to umpire US Wightman Cup competition in 1975 and the first woman to co-chair the USTA Umpires Committee (1975-76). In 1984 she was one of two American umpires selected by the ITF for duties at the Los Angeles Olympics.
In 1975, Blanchard became the first woman to win the USTA John T. McGovern Umpires’ Award. Among many honors, she and her husband received the ATP’s Court Official of the Year Award in 1976, and were inducted into the Southwest Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1994.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame citation notes: “Endowed with an innate sense of fairness and an encyclopedic knowledge of tennis, Flo Blanchard blazed a trail for women umpires. From the US Nationals to the NCAA to the Olympics, Blanchard skillfully negotiated even the most heated matches, often as the only woman official in the stadium.”
Having won the Bermuda singles championship in 1957, Blanchard also worked as a teaching pro – her charges included junior Wightman Cup teams – and she achieved considerable success as a top-ranked senior player.
In 1983, Blanchard was awarded the USTA Service Bowl, for being the “person or player who makes the most notable contribution to the sportsmanship, fellowship and service of tennis”.
Blanchard retired at 70 to live with Mike in their home in Phoenix until he died. In 2012 she moved to the Terraces Retirement Home where by all accounts she continued to play a wicked game of bridge. She is survived by her daughter, Susan Herrick of Glendale; her granddaughter, Amy Howell of Phoenix; and grandson, Michael Herrick of Sunnydale, California; and four great-grandchildren.