BLACKHAM, THE HONORABLE ANN R. (DeCain) of Winchester and West Harwich, passed away peacefully on July 25, 2021. The daughter of Frederick A. and Letitia L. (Stolfe) DeCain was born in New York City on June 16, 1927, she was pre-deceased by sister Florianne L. DeCain of Bronxville, NY and brother the Honorable Vincent F. DeCain of Kensington, MD and the beloved wife for almost 60 years of the late James W. “Bill” Blackham, Jr. Loving mother of Ann C. (Blackham) Norberg and her husband Robert B. Norberg of Winchester, MA and the Honorable James W. “Bill” Blackham III and his wife Dr. Dora (Miranda) Savani-Blackham of Cincinnati, OH. Cherished Grandmother of Ann K., Bob Jr., and Christine E. Norberg, Matthew G., Jonathan W. and Nicholas J. Blackham, Anand M. Savani and nine great grandchildren she adored. She is also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.
Ann was a proud and recognized outstanding 1946 graduate of the Beaumont School, an all-girls Catholic high school located in Cleveland Heights, OH and subsequently earned her BA degree in 1949 from the College of St. Mary of the Springs, now Ohio Dominican University, located in Columbus, OH where until recently she was an active contributor of her time and financial resources.
Upon completion of her academic life, Ann embarked without any definitive plan on what would become an amazing journey that resulted in numerous outstanding contributions to so many, but, in particular, women. She began her career in 1950 in retailing, following in the steps of her men’s clothing designer father, and eventually became the store manager of the Filene & Sons branch located in Winchester. After the birth of her two children and their entrance into the Winchester school system, she studied to pass the real estate brokers examination and began in 1961 a real estate career that would span 50 years. By 1966 she was the top selling realtor and became sales manager of a Winchester based company as she set her sights on bringing about changes through politics and founding her own real estate company. In 1968, she ran against incumbent Massachusetts Senator Philibert Pelligrini and founded her own real estate company named Ann Blackham & Company. By this time she had already established herself and became highly visible in the Republican Party. Between 1966 and 1975 she was extremely active in the National Federation of Republican Women serving as Secretary and then Vice President. In 1969, she began an over four decades long role of serving and advising Governors of Massachusetts and Presidents of the United States becoming a member of the Board of Economic Advisors to the Governor of Massachusetts and a member of the President’s task force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities. This led to her co-authoring “A Matter of Simple Justice” written to further the ERA effort and on to numerous other state and national appointments in the 1970’s such as Co-Chair of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, Regional Director of the Interstate Association of Commissions on the Status of Women, and to the National Defense Advisory Commission on Women in Service for the U.S. Department of Defense. Most remarkably, these and other appointments and the required dedication of time were simultaneous to her building in the 1970’s Ann Blackham & Company into a highly successful and greatly respected business owned by either gender and named the 1985 New England Business Owner of the Year. She became a rare woman director of a bank in 1974 serving 13 years as a trustee of Charlestown Savings Bank and its successor. In 1984 she began her service as Chair of the Board of the Massachusetts Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespeople serving until 2011 having been reaffirmed to that role by four Massachusetts Governors. Over a period of 28 years she was appointed 7 consecutive times to the Massachusetts delegation for the Republican National Convention. In conjunction with a Presidential advisory role, she had great pleasure from the installation of the first childcare facility in a U.S. Government building ironically constructed in the basement of the U.S. Department of Labor. Ann was also a finalist candidate to become Treasurer of the United States, a position that even today has been held by few women. Ann was included in the publication “The 2500 Women Who Changed the Face of America” and was individually identified for her accomplishments in the New York Times best seller “Common Ground”.
Despite all of the demands Ann always made time for providing advice to women, donating her time and resources to enhance her community, and was a constant contributor to an extensive list of organizations she believed made a difference including, but not limited to, The Winton Club, The Enka Society and Doric Dames to name a few. She also changed her schedules for the chance to spend time with her grandchildren and later in life loved to sit and observe her great grandchildren for whom she had so much love and aspiration for their journey in life.