Norma S. Spencer

Posted on Monday, December 24, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Mrs. Norma S. Spencer, 90, of Ruther Glen died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by her loving family, at a private nursing home in Glen Allen on Christmas Day, 2012.

She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Dr. Frederick J. Spencer; her daughter, Gillian Spencer, of Baltimore; her son, Tony, and his wife, Danielle, of Ruther Glen; her sister, Jorie Wetchler, of Chicago; and four grandchildren, Lauren Spencer Meyer, Nicholas Spencer Meyer, Josie Spencer, and Charlie Spencer.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Joseph and Della Spector of Indiana Harbor, Ind., and her sister, Julia Phillips of New York City.

Mrs. Spencer, who was born in Chicago, was a brilliant student who won a full academic scholarship to Purdue University, where she graduated in the first class of the engineering school to include women.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she enlisted in the first cadre of the Women’s Army Air Corps; in addition to serving as her company’s bugler, she finished at the top of her class in flight control and eventually was in charge of the flight tower at Truax Army Airfield in Wisconsin.

Following her honorable discharge with the rank of technical sergeant, Mrs. Spencer lived in San Francisco, where she joined in the celebration of V-J Day and worked first as a statistical draftsman for the Oakland Dry Dock and later as a statistical analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank. While in San Francisco she took up acting and appeared in a play with Orson Welles.

Mrs. Spencer moved to New York City in 1947 and became one of the first women to trade on the New York and American Stock Exchanges. During the seven years she lived in New York, she also worked as a fashion model and as an operative for a private detective agency. With other veterans, she organized protests against racial discrimination in the city’s subsidized housing.

She sailed on the S.S. Liberté to Europe for an eight-month grand tour in 1953 and met her husband aboard the ship. They married in 1954 and settled in her husband’s hometown in the north of England, where their daughter, Gillian, was born in 1955. They moved to Virginia in 1956, and her husband was named health director of the Fredericksburg region for the Virginia Department of Health. Their son, Tony, was born in 1958.

In addition to raising a family, Mrs. Spencer was active as a Girl Scout leader, a PTA president, and a volunteer with Women in Community Service and the Job Corps. She was extremely generous in her financial support of charities, and she was featured doing charitable work in a documentary produced by the U.S. Information Agency in the mid-1960s.

Mrs. Spencer adored her grandchildren, and though she was gravely ill, she was determined to live long enough to meet her grandson, Charlie Spencer, who was born Nov. 1, 2012. In the last weeks of her life, she enjoyed spending time with him and her granddaughter, Josie.

In accordance with her wishes, Mrs. Spencer’s remains were cremated. A memorial service will be held on a date to be determined.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ladysmith Volunteer Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 186, 18287 Jefferson Davis Highway, Ladysmith, Va., 22546.

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