Jackie Everts Bancroft Spencer Morgan was well on her way to being a legendary figure long before her passing in May of 2003.
The public still buzzes over anything written about her because, in life, she was a fiercely private person who gave generously of her vast wealth with steadfast, absolute resolve. She never sought the public eye, rather she shied from it, but her gifts inexorably fixated our interests.
Tall and striking, vibrantly alive and brazenly honest, Jackie was twice widowed and raised three children. Her first husband, Capitan rancher Hugh Bancroft, Jr., was an immediate heir to a New York publishing fortune (his father founded Dow Jones & Company). When he died, in 1953 she was thrust into the top one percent of America’s wealthiest citizens. Yet, rather than return to her native Denver and cosmopolitan living, she opted to marry again, this time to the family doctor, the late Dr. A.N. Spencer, and make a home in dusty, wind-whipped little Carrizozo, New Mexico. The lack of pretensions generally associated with such fabulous wealth was unique: Jackie was indeed a “Forbes 500” figure of power and prestige, but she stuck to what felt right and generously colored the world with her potpourri of pleasures. She surely loved the more civilized refinements of life – the fine dining and travel, symphonies and dramatic musicals – as her creation of the monumental Spencer Theater makes apparent. But Jackie also relished the bosky side of living, the indulgences that are more physical and rowdy like late-night parties, ten-pin bowling, fireworks and fast race horses, as well as the simple goodness of children’s plays and Hamburger Helper.
She shot from the hip, telling folks exactly what she liked and disliked in a disarming manner that was so refreshing and oftentimes hilarious.
She ignored all manner of status keeping, needless hobnobbing or the trivialities of gossip – particularly if she were the subject. Rather, she made certain that what mattered most to her and those she cared about happened.
The lady had panache. Few people impacted the quality of life in south-central New Mexico more directly. She read about a local child desperate for a liver transplant. She helped pay for it, saving his life.
She toured a camp for troubled boys and the bus she was touring in broke down. She bought them a new one.
Carrizozo children wanted a boxing program so she bought them a professional ring. They wanted to bowl so she built a recreation center. She wanted to golf so she built a nine-hole course and the Carrizozo Country Club. Ruidoso children wanted to ski so she underwrote their annual lift tickets. When the New Mexico Symphony was about to go under (in the 1980’s) she financially saved it. When the Governor’s Mansion needed refurbishing she generously supported it.
Luckily her love for theater and the performing arts was so strong that she saved for 15-years and built the Spencer, her “little gem” in outback Alto. She hired Architect Antoine Predock who melded his talent with her dreams. And she ordered four major glass art installations from Dale Chihuly, who created dazzling, multi-colored sculptures that squirm with life and matched her nature.
Since its opening in 1997 Jackie had been repeatedly thanked for building and gifting the theater to New Mexico. Now we’re being asked to take the reins.
We are the fortunate.