The former Walter M. Bacon Jr., left,  transitioned to Meredith Bacon 13 years ago. Meredith's spouse of 50 years, Lynne Bacon, died Thursday at the age of 72. 

When Lynne Bacon’s spouse transitioned 13 years ago from Wally to Meredith — from male to female — Lynne didn’t even think of leaving.

Last month the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and on Thursday friends will celebrate her life. She died Thursday from cancer at 72.

“She was caring, giving and sharing,” Meredith said, describing their nonconventional marriage as one of “mutual devotion.”

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at All Saints Episcopal Church, 9302 Blondo St., where Lynne served as an ordained deacon. A Fulbright-Hays scholar who studied internationally, she taught French and Spanish for 31 years at Creighton Prep.

She had pictured a conventional marriage when she and Walter M. Bacon, who met in college, married in 1968. But in Paris in 1972, he told her that he had always felt that he was truly female.

He continued living as a man — they had no children — and in 1976 began teaching political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

At 6-foot-2 with a deep, booming voice — Lynne stood a trim 5-foot-3½ — Wally served as “festival herald,” welcoming people to outdoor productions of Shakespeare on the Green. Lynne served on the local Shakespeare board.

As the years passed, he suffered depression over his conflicted life, even becoming suicidal. He eventually informed UNO colleagues that he was transgender and would live as a woman.

“I am not gay,” he wrote. “I am not a cross-dresser or transvestite. I am transsexual, or transgendered.”

In 2005 I wrote his coming-out story.

With Lynne at his side, he went before a judge and got his name legally changed from Wally to Meredith. He’d had facial-feminization procedures and then gender-reassignment surgery, completing the transition from a he to a she.

If divorce ever might have happened, Lynne said, the logical time would have been 1972, when she was “bewildered” by what her spouse told her. But they remained committed.

“It’s taken me a very, very long time to really begin to understand,” Lynne told me in 2005. “Intellectually, I understand it. Emotionally is another problem.”

In a letter to their church and to the Prep faculty, she wrote: “You will no doubt wonder why I chose and continue to choose to remain in such a relationship. The answer is simple. I married my best friend and soul mate, and so did he.”

As Meredith began presenting as a woman, wearing a wig and trading suits for pantsuits and neckties for necklaces, Lynne helped. But she smiled in saying that some of Meredith’s clothing combinations at first really weren’t fit to be seen in public.

Most of the response to going public, the Bacons said, was positive. But Lynne soon left the Prep faculty, accepting a two-year salary buyout.

She then worked seven years as an interpreter for Conagra until 2014, when she retired. Meredith Bacon retired at the same time as a professor at UNO, where she had served three times as president of the Faculty Senate — two as Wally, one as Meredith.

Jody Neathery-Castro, chair of the political science department, said she has known the couple for 20 years and regards them as the most generous people.

“They have housed international students,” she said, “as well as young people who may not have been welcome in their own homes because they are gay or transgender.”

As for their long marriage and Meredith’s sex change, Jody said: “I credit both of them for showing how to go through something like this with grace, especially Lynne. I never saw her show impatience or disapproval or being upset about some of the challenges that came their way.”

Meredith said they hoped their retirement would be golden years, but health problems for both intervened.

Lynne was diagnosed with bladder and colon cancer in late 2016. Meredith walks with a cane because of imbalance, and has Type 2 diabetes.

At their golden anniversary party on Aug. 10, a weakened Lynne was able to sit up for two hours and greet people. She was in hospice care when she died at home Aug. 30.

Through the years, Lynne accomplished a lot. Besides working with LGBTQ groups, she served as national executive vice president of the Federation of Alliances Françaises, which promotes French language and culture.

Lynne, her spouse said, was “absolutely essential” to Meredith’s transition. “She helped me emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.”

Said Neathery-Castro: “The compassion and grace that Lynne showed is a powerful message for today. We need more tolerance. We need more Lynne Bacons in the world.”

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michael.kelly@owh.com, 402-444-1132

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