Erik John SPICER
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SPICER, Erik John, C.M., C.D.
Parliamentary Librarian Emeritus
Died in Ottawa on September 27, 2014. Born in Ottawa on April 9, 1926, son of the late Violet Manhart (nee Gundersen) and Clifford Spicer, Erik is survived by Helen, his beloved wife of 61 years; daughter Erika Scott (Andrew) of Vancouver, B.C.; son John (Patricia Trott) of Toronto, Ont.; his beloved granddaughters Elizabeth, Katherine (Bradley Boehringer) and Caroline Scott, and Gabriella Spicer; brother Clifford (Barbara) of Olds, Alta., and sister Samantha Wallace (Keith) of Fairfield, IA.
A proud student of the Model School, Lisgar Collegiate, Ottawa, and graduate of Kenmore (NY) Sr. H.S.; Victoria Univ., Univ. of Toronto (B.A.); Univ. of Toronto Library School (B.L.S. 1949, Distinguished Graduate Medal, Faculty of Library and Information Sciences, 1989); School of Graduate Studies, Univ. of Toronto (1949-50); and Univ. of Michigan (M.A.L.S. 1959, Distinguished Alumnus Award 1979).
Erik began his career as a librarian at the public libraries of Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, and the university libraries of Victoria and Michigan before becoming Assistant Librarian and Deputy Librarian at the Library of the City of Ottawa, continuing there until his appointment as Parliamentary Librarian of Canada by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1960 – the first professionally trained librarian to hold the position. Erik remained Parliamentary Librarian until his retirement in 1994, at which time he was honoured, in recognition for his long and distinguished service, by being named Parliamentary Librarian Emeritus and Honorary Officer of both Houses by resolution of the Senate and the House of Commons. He had the distinction of being Canada's longest continually serving Parliamentary official with the rank of Deputy Minister, serving under eight Prime Ministers and reporting to twelve Speakers of the Senate and ten Speakers of the House of Commons.
He often said that he had the best job in the world. Indeed, it provided him the opportunity to lead, build, teach – and serve his country – and he enthusiastically embraced the challenges put before him (including determinedly working to learn French). Not only was the work engaging, but Erik also saw himself as the chief custodian and advocate of the beautiful and iconic Library of Parliament building itself. He loved it deeply and reveled in showing it off to visitors – from school children to royalty and heads of state – and telling the story of its history, most particularly how it was saved from the great fire of 1916. For 34 years he happily occupied what had to be one of the finest government offices in Ottawa, with a panoramic view of the Ottawa River, Gatineau, Quebec, and the hills beyond; and with an entrance leading from the Gothic splendor of the main reading room.
Erik was a passionate proponent of the modern research library, and received numerous honours from home and abroad for his accomplishments and contributions to the field and his service to Canada, including appointment as a Member of the Order of Canada (1994). He was a life member of the Canadian Library Association (Pres. 1979-80) and Ontario Library Association (Pres. 1962-63).
Erik was member of the Governor General's Foot Guards in Ottawa, retiring in 1962 with the rank of Major. He was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration for this and his wartime service with the Royal Canadian Air Force and with the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps.
Erik and Helen enjoyed a very busy calendar of social, official and diplomatic functions, and over the years made many friends across Canada and around the world. Erik was an enthusiastic cottager, gardener, skier, and a fan of all things chocolate. He also enjoyed the arts, supporting the work of local painters, sculptors and ceramists, and attending performances at the National Arts Centre.
While Erik worked successfully to introduce computer technology at the library, he was not personally adept with electronic devices. However, he kept well-occupied with bookstore browsing and wrangling an ever-growing collection of books, periodicals and clippings (for which he was endlessly inventive in finding places to store) in the pursuit of his intense interest in military history and politics.
Erik was proud of his Danish heritage through his grandmother Besta, his mother, his aunt Anna and their siblings, and the cousins with whom he grew up and spent summers at Constance Bay and Long Lake, Quebec. He was a devoted caregiver to his mother and Anna in their later years.
Erik enjoyed a full and distinguished life, passing on his passion for life-long learning and generous dedication to family, community and country.
For those wishing to do so, donations in Erik's memory may be made to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation at, or by mail to 737 Parkdale Avenue, 1st Floor, Ottawa, ON K1Y 1J8. ("In Memory" donations for Erik Spicer will be directed to the Erik and Helen Spicer Legacy Endowment Fund.)
A Service and Celebration of Erik's Life will be held at The Guards Chapel, The Church of St. Bartholomew, 125 MacKay Street, Ottawa ( on Saturday, October 18 at 2:00 p.m. Condolences may be offered at

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Ottawa Citizen on Oct. 4, 2014.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by anonymous
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14 entries
December 3, 2014
I found a drawing of Dr. Spicer. Would love to give it to the family if interested. Email me at to contact me.
Susan Grubbs
November 4, 2014
Erik believed strongly in the role of the individual parliamentarians and the need to strengthen the resources available to them so they could make their way through the vast world of information sources in order to carry out their functions. Turning the Library into a professional, non-partisan organization was the first step. Then establishing the Research Branch staffed by economists, lawyers, scientists and other experts in government, international and social affairs so Members could better understand the policy issues and legislation and the alternatives before them was the lasting heritage Erik provided. The Canadian Library of Parliament is recognized as one of the finest such institutions in the world. We owe this reputation to Erik Spicer.
Hugh Finsten
November 4, 2014
Nov 2007
October 16, 2014
When I first met Mr. Spicer back in 1986 he frightened me, especially when only after a month of being at the library he came to my desk and said "I hear you are leaving us". I thought I had been fired. A few minutes later he realized that it was another Irene Brown who was leaving and he was bent over laughing in his office as he found it so funny.

I had the opportunity to get to know Mr. Spicer after his retirement when he was writing his memoirs. He would come into the Wellington Branch and we talked for hours about many things dealing with work, our families and life in general. He was a wise man and I really appreciated getting to know him. My deepest sympathy.
Irene Brown
October 15, 2014
I joined the Library of Parliament in 1978 and first met Mr. Spicer in early 1979 to take my oath. He truly instilled in us the importance of our place of work and how the work and research we undertook were helping serve our Parliament. We were well trained. When Quorum was first published in 1979, and I would run into Mr. Spicer at a Library function, he could not remember my name but knew me as Mrs. Quorum. Years later, he would always remember that. Parliament and the parliamentarians were well served under Erik J. May he rest in peace.
Trina Costantini-Powell
October 14, 2014
I had the opportunity to know Eric Spicer after joining the Library of Parliament in 1976.

Although Mr. Spicer always recognized me he could never remember my name, he always acknowledged that remembering names was a problem for him. One day while attending at the NAC,a few years following his retirement, I ran into Mr. Spicer and when I approached him to say hello, not only did he remember me but also knew my name.

Eric Spicer was a true Canadian and his dedication to the Library of Parliament and to Parliament itself was always evident in his professionalism.

To my fellow Lisgarite may you rest in peace, my condolences to the Spicer family for your loss.
Frank Volpi
October 7, 2014
I had occasion to interact with Erik several times during his tenure as Parliamentary Librarian - a true professional - a great Canadian.
Sincerest condolences to the Spicer family.
Frank Biss
October 6, 2014
My condolences to the Spicer family.
Maria Lengemann
Rideau Club
Maria Lengemann
October 5, 2014
In the late 70s I came to work in the Library of Parliament.

One time I was summoned to Mr. Spicer's office – I had committed some infraction, the details of which I no longer remember – but to my surprise, we had a pleasant conversation, and I left feeling very much relieved.

For years afterwards, even after I left the Library, whenever we crossed paths, he always stopped and spoke to me.

Just a month or so ago, he came into the Library, in a wheelchair, recognized me immediately, and said: “You look younger all the time!”

We have lost a scholar, and a true gentleman.
Ian McDonald
October 5, 2014
Dear Helen, Erika, John and families,

Please accept the condolences of the Land family. Once I let Brian know this afternoon, he will want to send a message himself. Erik was a constant in Brian's life and Dad always enjoyed seeing Erik whether at dinner with Helen, parliamentary librarians' meetings, or IFLA. He will be very sad to hear this news.

Mary Land-Crowther, Brian Land's daughter
October 5, 2014
I knew Erik Spicer as a librarian dedicated to the service of Parliament and determined to provide information and research facilities of the
highest quality to parliamentarians. He established a parliamentary research service of which I was appointed Director in 1965. It was the first parliamentary library in the
Commonwealth to provide such a service. I was
closely acquainted with Erik Spicer from 1964
to his retirement and I owe to him the first significant opportunities relating to my career in Canada.
I send my sincere condolences to his wife Helen and the other members of his family.
Philip Laundy.
Philip Laundy
October 4, 2014
Dear Mrs. Spicer and family,
We are so sorry to hear of Mr. Spicer's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Pat & Diane Dillon
October 4, 2014
Eric est tout sourire à la fête de retaite de Mike Graham en 2003!
Mike Graham
October 4, 2014
Sincere condolences from his many friends at the Rotary Club of Ottawa
John Clipsham
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