David Spear died peacefully Thursday, February 21, 2013 at the age of 95.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Sarah and Harry; a brother, Isadore, who died in childhood; Hilda Joy Spear, his loving wife of 67 years and the "Light of His Life", who died in 2007; his sister, Rose; and his sister and brother-in-law, Charlotte and Jack Solomon. He was also preceded in death by a loyal and devoted friend of the past several years, Viola Baker.
He is survived by his daughters, Judy Johnson, of New Jersey, Harriet Spear, of Nashville, TN; his son, Alan Spear (Beverly) and granddaughter, Hayley, of Virginia; niece, Sheila Harris and her two children of New Jersey; nephew, Howard (Angela) Solomon of New Jersey; sister-in-law, Rhoda Phillips of New York; niece, Vikki Siciliano (Tony) and four children of New York; niece, Alex Phillips of Oregon; numerous cousins; many friends from the St. Paul Retirement Community, where he resided for 10 years, and Lakeview-The Meadows Nursing Facility, where he received loving care the last six months of his life.
David was born and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York and grew up in poverty. He often said that the only thing that "saved" him from life on the streets was his love of basketball, which he learned to play on the concrete courts in his neighborhood. His mother died when he was 12, which had a profound effect on him, as did the loss of his older brother when he was just four and the death of his father in a fire when David was 19.
David attended the City College of New York (CCNY) on a scholarship and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. He was always interested in the academic success of his children and passed on his skill in math, curiosity about and love of the English language and the origin of words.
In 1994, CCNY alumni honored David for his college basketball achievements by inducting him into the CCNY Athletic Hall of Fame, whose mission is: "To honor in perpetuity those who by their participation in and association with athletics at the College, and by their demonstration of character, sportsmanship, and service to the community, have won personal distinction and brought honor and glory to sports and to The City College of the City University of New York." After nomination, followed by extensive research and compilation of information about his college basketball accomplishments, he was voted in by the Alumni Varsity Association and the honor was celebrated at a special dinner held at the CCNY campus.
David volunteered for the service during WWII, but was turned down due to high blood pressure. Ever the patriot, he found work which allowed him to support the war effort by working in the Navy shipyard in Bremerton, Washington from 1942 to 1946.
His memories of the struggles experienced by his hard-working parents and his neighbors during the Depression, as well as his own experiences growing up poor, gave David a strong drive to succeed. He worked very hard to be a good provider for his family and succeeded in that regard.
When David and Hilda married, they continued to live in New York. Not long after, he received his first job transfer to Puget Sound, Washington. Having never traveled outside of New York, he and Hilda accepted the transfer, thinking that meant Long Island Sound, only to find out they had to move across country to Washington State. That started a very long career as a Mechanical Engineer in the Pulp & Paper industry. Over the years, he worked for several companies, including Scott Paper Company, his longest employer, in Washington State as well as their headquarters in Pennsylvania. In addition, David worked and lived in Connecticut, Quebec, Canada, and Alabama before moving with his wife to Tennessee. He and Hilda loved the many friends they made, the vacations to New York City, San Francisco, England and Scotland and the cruises they took. They were accomplished dancers, making an elegant couple on the dance floor, even in later years.
Special thanks go to Jean Bradley who gave him devoted service for several years at The St. Paul Senior Living Community, as well as to the dedicated and loving staff at Lakeshore-the Meadows Nursing Home, where he resided the last six months of his life. Thanks also goes to his long-time friend, Erling Hesla, from Washington State, who wrote wonderful letters over many years time that David liked to hear over and over again, keeping him up on news of old friends from their years working at Scott Paper Company in Everett, WA.
As his wife before him did, David donated his body to Vanderbilt Medical School.
Two memorial services celebrating his life will be held, one on Thursday, April 4 at 2 p.m. at the Meadows, 8044 Coley Davis Road, Nashville, TN and one on Saturday, April 6, at 2 p.m. at the St. Paul Senior Living Community at 5031 Hillsboro Road, Nashville, TN.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in honor of David Spear to The Alumni Association of CCNY, POB 177, New York, NY 10027. In the memo line, please indicate in honor of David Spear - Scholarship Fund.