William Driver Spencer

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William Driver Spencer passed away on August 17, 2013 just 2 days after celebrating his 96th birthday with his family. He was born on August 15, 1917 as the fourth child of Harry Julyan Spencer and Mary Grace (Whitman) Spencer in Norwalk, California. William D. Spencer married Cecilia Even on February 5, 1943 during WWII and together they had five children: Nicholas, Anne, Christopher, Martha, and Thomas. After over 70 years of marriage his wife Cecilia preceded him in death by just over 3 months. He is survived by four children (Nicholas passed away at the age of 52 years). William also has 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren so far!

William was a very supportive husband and father. He was a man of few words but his actions spoke of his love and support for his family. Dad had a great depth to him, a depth of thought and commitment. Dad was there, rock solid for us all. His support was financial, great wisdom in his advice, and always a genuinely interested listening ear. He always displayed a genuine acceptance of people from all walks of life. During family get togethers at his house, such has his 90th birthday celebration, the numbers of children and grandchildren present brought home the respect and love we all had for our beloved father and grandfather.

William grew up as a country boy in Los Angeles County! This is hard to imagine now. A housing development has long since changed forever the ranch and the area on Studebaker road in Artesia where he grew up in a very simple farm house. He attended grade school in Artesia by horse and buggy. His upbringing influenced him in many wonderful ways. He passed on to his children his openness and appreciation for all kinds of people and backgrounds. Though poor his family valued education. Several of his siblings received a college education. William graduated from the University of Southern California with a double major in Sociology and Education. He achieved a master's degree as well with plans of becoming a high school teacher. World War II and family responsibilities intervened. His career directed him instead to working within the State of California's Farm Labor bureau. In the late 1958 and 1959, he was present as Caesar Chavez was attempting to organize farm workers in the Oxnard, California area. Dad remembered the struggle and how a large number of complaints were filed against some of the large farms in the area. There were too many complaints to even review. He reportedly let it be known that if just a few valid complaints were filed, he would make sure they would be thoroughly investigated. As we all know, the United Farm Workers union was formed shortly after this time. Dad lived in very interesting times. He also told stories of how many seasonal workers from Mexico were cared for and helped in many ways.

Dad loved the outdoors. He also loved to farm and to grow fruit trees. He helped put himself through college by growing corn and sweet potatoes. Our family had a vegetable garden almost every year. Dad's favorites were his orange, apricot, and peach trees. Mother canned many summers with the abundance of the crop. One year one of us complained about how many nectarines there were. Dad's response reportedly was - how can anyone grow only a 1/2 of a tree? (to have less fruit). He would rototill his garden area and prune his trees even past the age of 90. If he ever needed a bit of quiet, he would head outside to his trees.

One of my favorite stories relates to how Dad met his future parent's in law. He had traveled by train from Southern California to Kenosha, Wisconsin. As the luggage was brought out to the station, all of Dad's belongings were in a cardboard box tied with rope! His future wife was mortified! Dad never lost his down to earth approach to life and would rather use simple means to accomplish an end rather than the often complex means of modern life. He was no fan of gadgets as he would call them.

The Lord has certainly blessed our family through our parents William and Cecilia Spencer and we honor them. Dad was not a church goer. But he had always admired and was drawn to the faith that Cecilia lived throughout her life. William asked the Lord Jesus to make a way for him to come to God and asked Him as well to forgive him of his sins. This was a good thing since Cecilia was waiting for him! As his children, we are eternally grateful for all that the Lord has done. Thanks be to God.

Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from Oct. 20 to Oct. 24, 2013
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