Sharon Welch-Blair, longtime Governor’s Mansion area resident and preservationist, died on November 4, 2020.
She was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1948. Her father’s job required frequent moving, so by the time she entered the sixth grade Sharon had attended over 25 schools. Her family finally settled back in Jonesboro, where Sharon attended Valley View High School.
She married her husband, Bob Blair, in 1966 and they remained together for 54 years. In her early career, Sharon worked as a professional painter and instructor focused on Tole painting. She eventually sold her studio and went to work for New York Life, where she stayed for over thirty years, and was the top selling agent in Arkansas for many years.
In 1993, Sharon and Bob purchased the Hornibrook house on Louisiana Street in Little Rock. It was, at the time, one of the largest restoration projects in the Governor’s Mansion Historic District. The house had been a nursing home for several years prior to their purchase. Sharon and Bob turned the Hornibrook house into the Empress Bed & Breakfast, which they ran for over 25 years. It was the first small inn to earn a 4-Diamond rating. They won several preservation awards from the Quapaw Quarter Association and other organizations. Bob Blair served on the QQA board, and the Hornibrook House was featured on the QQA Spring Tour of Homes at least twice while they owned it.
Sharon also served her community. She was president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association for ten years, and an elder at First Presbyterian Church. A private funeral was held on Monday, November 9, 2020. Sharon’s final resting place will be Mount Holly Cemetery.
She is survived by her husband, her two children Stephen and Gwendolen, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, three of her siblings, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
The QQA will miss her enthusiasm for historic preservation, her infectious charm, and her welcome candor.