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Lonabelle Spencer

Lonabelle Spencer Obituary

Sarasota, FL

Lonabelle "Kappie" Kaplan Spencer '47 - Doctor of Laws - Grinnell College.

Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer, died in her apartment at the Glenridge in Sarasota, Wednesday morning at the age of 85. Though she lived in Des Moines, Iowa most of her life, Kappie was a Sarasota resident for the past 25 years. Arrangements will be handled by Wiegand Brothers Funeral Home.

Kappie was recently awarded a "Doctorate of Laws" Degree from Grinnell College in recognition of her lifetime achievements in advancing the equality of women and women's rights. Kappie graduated from Grinnell College in 1947 with a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education; she has endowed a Grinnell scholarship fund to encourage women and minority students to enter mathematics and the sciences. Kappie was a Life Trustee of Grinnell College.

In 1976 Kappie ran for the Iowa Senate, but she couldn't be found in the phone book. "Women were simply invisible. The CEO just laughed when I insisted that it change, and that was his mistake. I researched the directory and showed that the addition of women's names in the directory would actually help to identify the Bob Johnsons, Smiths and Jones, and I proved that the telephone companies were actually losing money, losing revenue by their stubborn refusal." She ran against the Iowa Senate Majority Leader. Her shoestring campaign garnered 1/3 of the votes and captured the standing Senator's own district. There were very few women in political office back then and even fewer candidates. Kappie was a front-runner for women in political office today.

Kappie served as National Legislative Director and Chair of the National Board of Directors for the American Association of University Women from 1978 to 1983.

Kappie spearheaded a Gender Balance Project in Iowa to pass legislation requiring state appointed boards and commissions to be balanced by gender. Her Gender Balance Project went nationwide for which she became National Director.

Kappie also initiated federal legislation regarding fairness to women by financial advisors in matters of wills and trusts, which were tilted toward control by men over women's finances; was initiator and Co-founder of Florida Women's Consortium; and was a member of the National Steering Committee for National Women's Political Caucus.

Kappie is honored by National Association of Commissions for Women, National Women's Hall of Fame; American Association of University Women, Moingona Girl Scout Council (Iowa), and Veteran Feminists of America.

In 1990, Kappie received the Christine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice. And, in 1995 Kappie was an attendee at the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.

In November of 2007 her biography appeared in the book "Feminists Who Changed America 1962 to 1975". Her bio has been included in Who's Who in America, and Who's Who of American Women annually since 1998.

Her writings and projects can also be found in "Women and Government: New Ways to Political Power", by Bella Abzug, and Mim Kelber, "The ERA Facts and Action Guide"; "The Deep Divide: Why American Women Resist Equality" by Sherrye Henry.

Six decades of involvement and as a Life Member of the Girl Scouts of America, Kappie was an active volunteer in the pursuit of teaching young girls life learning skills and building self-confidence.

Kappie was born in Steele County, Minnesota the daughter of Florence and Reuben A. Kaplan. Her father Reuben was an entrepreneur, inventor, and tool manufacturer in Owatonna, Minnesota where Kappie spent her formative years. Kappie was the first woman to solo at the Owatonna Airport, in a single engine, polished aluminum Ercoupe in August of 1946. Her photo appears in "Owatonna Memories and Milestones".

Kappie married Mark R. Spencer, now passed, who before they met at Grinnell College was a Navy Lieutenant Fighter Pilot stationed on baby flattops off the U.S. East Coast and the South Pacific during World War II.

Kappie is survived by sons Gregory M, Gary A, and Dane K. Spencer and daughter Carol Ann Spencer, all whom reside in Sarasota, Florida. She is also survived by eight grandchildren, one great-grandchild and by her youngest brother, Kennard Kaplan of Owatonna, MN and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Kappie will rest with her husband, Mark at the Merle Hay Funeral Home in Des Moines.

Please send no flowers, suggested memorial contributions: Grinnell College; Moingona Girl Scout Council, Des Moines, Iowa; Gulf Coast Girl Scout Council, Sarasota, Florida; Mayo Clinic Research and Education Foundation for Women's Breast Cancer Research; and the Glenridge Foundation.

Kappie had an abundance of energy and tirelessly worked to improve women's equality. She was epic in proportion for what she accomplished, but she always had time for family and friends. Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, and Katharine Hepburn were among her herons. Kappie was a dear Friend, Mother and Grandmother, and will be missed with all our hearts and remembered often and fondly.

Published in Des Moines Register on Feb. 4, 2011
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