This summer our community sadly lost two long-term conservation advocates who devoted most of their lives to protecting the incredible natural resources of Wake and Johnston Counties and helped establish two TLC nature preserves.
Betty Brandt Williamson (May 1, 1959 – July 31, 2021) was instrumental in the permanent protection of the Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve. In 2013, she and her sister, Sally Greaser, worked with TLC to honor their parents’ wishes to permanently protect the 405-acre family farm located in the Shotwell area of eastern Raleigh.
This was just one of many steps in Betty Brandt’s conservation legacy. She was tirelessly committed to protecting the rural open spaces of the entire Shotwell area and served on one of TLC’s first advisory boards that helped develop the initial plan for the Marks Creek and Neuse River area. Since that time, in partnership with Wake and Johnston Counties and many landowners, TLC has helped protect over 2,500 acres of open space in this priority area.
The vision and foresight of Betty Brandt helped lay the foundation for this amazing landscape-level conservation initiative. Not only did she work to protect land and open space, she also brought together the entire Shotwell community to ensure not only was land permanently protected, it was also stewarded to the highest levels. From working with community members to organize and push back on expansion of a landfill to using her background in clinical data collection to analyze water quality reports, Betty Brandt dedicated her entire life to protecting land and all the beings that inhabit it.
Don Stephenson (December 9,1944- August 16, 2021) was a biologist, a conservationist, an artist, teacher, army veteran, naturalist, poet, and a good conversationalist and humorist. Don and his wife Francine were early members of TLC and he was instrumental to protecting many unique and natural landscapes in Johnston County. TLC is thankful for all of Don’s efforts but perhaps his greatest conservation legacy was the permanent protection of Flower Hill Nature Preserve.
The unique preserve drew the attention of B.W. Wells in the 1930’s and had largely been forgotten until Don visited the site with his biology students from Johnston County Community College in April, 1987. On that visit Mr. Stephenson felt a similar excitement that Dr. Wells experienced a full half-century before. As a board member of TLC, he began working with members and the local community to build support and raise funds to protect this incredible ecological site. Don continued his efforts to support conservation with TLC throughout his life and was always willing to help staff on conservation planning and land protection efforts.
Next time you stop to smell the Catawba rhododendrons at Flower Hill Preserve or take your dog on a stroll onTwo Ponds Loop at Williamson Preserve, please be inspired that sometimes a spark from one person’s passion for conservation can be all it takes to create a lasting legacy for our community.
Betty Brandt and Don, you will be greatly missed