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Eric Grayson Spelman


1938 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Eric Grayson Spelman Obituary
October 28, 1938 - July 23, 2016 Eric Spelman, 77, a Renaissance man of amazing breadth and depth, a lover and helper of friends of all backgrounds, a man enchanted with and playful with words, a much beloved father, husband, and member of his extended family, died suddenly on July 23, 2016. He leaves behind his wife of 15 years, Barbara McMahon, his son Matt, daughter-in-law and son-in-law Loni and Jeffery Barnhill, and two glorious grandchildren, Shelby and Bailey Spelman, as well as an amazing array of other relatives and friends who treasured him and will miss him greatly. Eric was born in Highland Park, to Oel and Roma Spelman. He loved to say that he was one of those exceedingly endangered species, a native Californian. Throughout his life Eric collected information and stories about both sides of his extended family and was seen as the family historian. Music came early to Eric. He sang in a prize-winning barbershop quartet throughout junior and senior high school, studied trumpet and piano, among other instruments, and was a master singer of all sorts of music. Upon his graduation from high school, he was awarded a full scholarship to Caltech, based on his record in math and science. To the chagrin of his father, he turned down the offer and went instead to Occidental College for two years, then on to San Francisco State, searching for more rigorous music education. After earning his undergraduate degree, he decided to take a break in his studies, and took a job selling computers for a couple of years. That time was also rewarding, and later in life had a bag full of tales about his adventures in the job. In graduate school at UC Berkley, he developed a special interest in old music, which never left him, continuing to further post-grad studies at USC. Planning for a career, he learned enough of every instrument in the modern orchestra to teach it to his students, and taught music for some of the years following his graduation. When music fell out of favor in LA schools, Eric switched to teaching his other passion, history, to 8th graders. In the process he also taught them advanced skills like essay writing, developing and illustrating biographies, analysis of political cartoons, and a love of reading. It was not uncommon for him to encounter a student of many years past who reported that the skills he or she had learned in Eric's class were the most helpful of any to prepare them for college and graduate school. Eric married, and began to raise a family of two boys, Brad and Matt, to whom he was extremely devoted, even after his marriage ended. Brad later lost his life in a car crash, but Matt has remained close during all these years, an excellent teacher like his parents. During this time, Eric continued his education at USC, seeking advanced degrees in music, history, and library science. He still hoped he might gain a position at the university as a music librarian, but that did not materialize. After years of teaching, he took a hiatus and worked with his brother's company selling heaters to hog growers! (He had great stories about those times, too.) Eric's whole life has been blessed by history, books, people he loved, and music-especially, in later life, at the Neighborhood Church of Pasadena. It was in the choral group there that he met Barbara McMahon. They were married 15 years ago, celebrating their anniversary shortly before Eric's death. That loving partnership was a great joy to both of them, much too soon ended, but a blessing to both. Memorial services will be held on Saturday, October 8, at 1:30, at Neighborhood Church, 301 N. Orange Grove, Pasadena 91103.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Sept. 10 to Sept. 11, 2016
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