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Genevieve Willson Spiegel

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Photo Genevieve Willson Spiegel December 30, 1916 - September 20, 2007 Genevieve (affectionately known as "Gen") passed away peacefully in her home in San Francisco with family members by her side at the age of 90 on September 20, 2007. Beloved mother and grandmother, Gen was preceded in her death by her husband of 58 years, Hart Hunter Spiegel, and is survived by her two daughters, Jennifer Grellman and Claire Brian; her son, John Spiegel and her sons-in-law, Gary Grellman and Brad Brian. Her seven grandchildren, Katherine and Michael Grellman, Allison and Leslie Brian, Caroline, Lauren and Evan Spiegel, also survive her. The best years of Gen's life were spent with her husband Hart, living in San Francisco cultivating her interests in the arts, music, and nature. Gen served as chairman of the Asian Art and Fine Arts Museums from the spring of 1987 through May of 1989. She was energized by the intellectual stimulation she received in her role as chairman. She was dedicated to providing this community service to all museum members and added tremendous leadership value. She continued serving as a museum docent for many years after her term expired. Gen was a patron of the arts, particularly the opera. She played the piano and loved arranging flowers from her garden. Her weekends were spent with Hart at their ranch in the Alexander Valley where they enjoyed the peace and serenity of the vineyards and countryside. Gen's life journey began in Reubens, Idaho in a farmhouse with abundant gardens of roses and delphinium tended by her mother. She was the younger of two children born to Tilly and John Willson. She had fond memories of her parents and childhood in Idaho, including playing with her older brother Earl, making doll clothes, and going to a one room schoolhouse on her horse, Nell. A true life-long learner committed to education, she got her first job teaching when she turned 18, instructing 10 children in grades one through eight in a neighboring town schoolhouse. Her sense of spirit and independence surfaced when she graduated from the University of Idaho in 1941. In her own words, she "wanted to see the world, earn her own living and do what she wanted to do." This sense of adventure and her desire to support the country's World War II efforts, led her to join WARDS, the Women's Air Raid Defense Group on the Island of Oahu. The WARDS plotted movements of aircraft on a large underground map, hoping to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened on December 7, 1941--Pearl Harbor. It was here in Hawaii that Gen met her handsome Marine Hart Spiegel, the love of her life, whom she married on February 12, 1946. Gen supported him during his successful career as a nationally known tax lawyer and chief counsel for the Internal Revenue Service. She felt very blessed to be married to a man with compassion, a deep commitment to their marriage, and a sense of humor. They settled in Berkeley where they raised their three children, John, Claire and Jennifer and later moved to San Francisco. Gen was an elegant lady. Her beautiful smile, sweet demeanor, and positive outlook on life were a gift to everyone. Even in her later years without Hart whom she missed dearly, she would maintain that she was forever grateful for her life with "such a wonderful guy, her beautiful children and talented grandchildren." In her words, "My cup runneth over." At Gen's request, a private funeral will be held for family members.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Sept. 26, 2007
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