William Rotch Wister, Jr.


William Rotch Wister Jr. of Palm Beach, Fla., died on Nov. 23, 2019, at age 86.

Known as “Billy” by most of his close friends, he was an accomplished bridge player, tennis player and golfer into his 80s, with trophies accumulated from each avocation. His mother, Frances Stotesbury Mitchell, and his father, William Rotch Wister, were descendants of old Philadelphia and Boston families dating back to the 1600s and the Revolutionary War, including signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. On the paternal side, his great-great-grandmother was the famous English actress Fanny Kemble, who caused a scandal when she divorced her husband, Pierce Butler Jr. of South Carolina, to become a crusading abolitionist. His grandfather, Owen Wister, was a college classmate and intimate friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, and author of many books. “The Virginian,” published in 1904, is regarded to this day as a classic description of the American West. On the maternal side, ancestors included Bishop William White, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell and Edward T. Stotesbury, senior partner of Drexel & Co. for 30 years.

Billy was born on Sept. 20, 1933, in New York City. He graduated from St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He served two years in Army intelligence, worked as a special assistant to the director of the Peace Corps and practiced law in Philadelphia for a few years. Following that, he became a senior vice president and member of the executive committee with Janney Montgomery Scott of Philadelphia. He served on many charitable and corporate boards, including Lankenau Hospital and Brandywine Conservancy, where he was president and served on that board for 21 years. He also belonged to many athletic and social clubs.

He is survived by his wife, Diana Dorrance Strawbridge Wister, his sister, Gillie Faure, his four children, Effie, Sabina, Noli and Will, his children’s mother, Ethel Benson Wister, and his four beloved grandchildren, Orion, Coralie, Zander and Alden. Among his residences, his favorite was in Northeast Harbor. He spent every summer of his life in Maine, a family tradition. Memorial contributions can be made to the Brandywine Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pa., or the Northeast Harbor Neighborhood House, Northeast Harbor, or a charity of your choice.

Information about a celebration of life will follow.

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