Edna P. (Thompson) Spencer
WORCESTER - Edna P. (Thompson) Spencer passed away peacefully on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Edna was born in Chattanooga, TN. As a child she endured the loss of both her parents, Frances and Joe Thompson and experienced poor health herself. However, despite the obstacles she faced, Edna was able to soar. Her life story is one of a shy gifted individual with extraordinary fortitude, resiliency, and accomplishments.
Edna was married to the love of her life, Cornelius (Neak) Boyd Spencer for sixty-two years. Their joy was Olivia Rochelle Spencer-Marley, their daughter. Both preceded Edna in death. Following Olivia's death, the Olivia Rochelle Spencer Memorial Scholarship was established in 2006 at Worcester State University (WSU) to honor Olivia's loving spirit and creative gifts.
Neak and Edna had the opportunity to travel broadly; most of the United States, throughout Western Europe, South Africa, Egypt, the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and Canada.
Edna earned an Associate degree from Quinsigamond Community College, a Bachelor's with "cum laude" honors and a Master's degree from Clark University in Worcester, MA. She was the first recipient of the Clark University COPACE Community Service Award for being an outstanding alumnus.
Edna enjoyed a 32-year career with State Mutual Life Assurance Co., now Hanover Insurance, prior to accepting the Director of Diversity and Affirmative Action Officer position at Worcester State University. In that role, she made it her mission to protect the rights of everyone on campus and promote a culture of tolerance and respect. With dignity and concern for others, she helped resolve issues, mediate conflict, and encourage a sense of shared purpose. After 16 years of service, she retired in January of 2012. In recognition of her many outstanding contributions, WSU dedicated a room in her honor on May 9, 2013.
Edna has been called a contemporary woman who was well known for her advocacy on behalf of people of color, women, and children. She was the first Black woman to serve as Chairman of the Trustee Board of Quinsigamond Community College and the first Black woman to serve as President of the YWCA of Central Massachusetts. She also served on the MLK Community Breakfast Committee, coordinated and chaired the annual MLK Youth Breakfast, and served on various other committees such as the African Heritage Festival Advisory Committee, City of Worcester Affirmative Action Committee, City Managers Strategic Planning 2000 Committee, Steering Committee for "Living Here Tomorrow", and the Committee for Equal Access for Worcester Vocational Schools. Edna was a past advisor to the Radcliff College Career Services Program and was one of the founders of the Henry Lee Willis Community Center. Her engagement in the community was boundless.
Her extraordinary leadership and comprehensive service to the community led Edna to receiving two keys to the city of Worcester and numerous awards and recognitions such as the National Conference for Christians and Jews Brotherhood award, the MLK Community Service Award, the Katherine F. Erskine Award for Education, the Massachusetts Teachers Association Civil Rights Award, and the Quinsigamond Community College Citizens Award.
As an author, her two publications were descriptive with a rare openness. In "What Color Is the Wind?" she shares some of her personal and family history. In "A Slice of Life" her creative talents are on full display. Both works are warm, moving, and sensitive.
Edna departed thanking her beloved niece Tracey Hathaway for loving care and support and her beloved friend of over thirty years, Mrs. Hermenia T. Gardner for her eager care. Their support enabled her to have the comfort of her own home during her final days. She leaves a host of nieces, nephews, friends, and former colleagues to cherish her memory.
Calling hours for Edna will be held on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 from 10-11 am in the MERCADANTE FUNERAL HOME & CHAPEL, 370 Plantation St., Worcester. Her funeral service will be held privately. Burial will be in Worcester County Memorial Park, Paxton. For the family and friends of Edna that are unable to attend the service, it will be Live streamed and can be accessed by going to www.mercadantefuneral.com
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