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 ohfoundation.ca
, 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 (www.stbartsottawa.ca
) on Saturday, October 18 at 2:00 p.m. Condolences may be offered at www.colefuneralservices.com