Marie Louise (née Wakefield) Spencer

Marie Louise (née Wakefield) Spencer

EUGENE — Marie Spencer could make things grow. She raised splendid roses with proper pruning, and pulled weeds so that her lilies, irises, and gladiolas flourished. She’d never give up on a houseplant another had left for dead — she’d bring it back to life.

In the same way, she nurtured her family, with patient, stubborn care. She did not spoil her two sons — they were disciplined when needed — but she loved them, and later their children, with all of her heart.

Despite several cancer surgeries and several joint-replacement surgeries, Mrs. Spencer persevered. She carried on without complaint. She died on Saturday night, Jan. 19, 2019.  She was 89.

Marie Louise Wakefield was the oldest of three daughters, born on Oct. 17, 1929 to Magdalena (née Harmsen) and Brown Hawkins Wakefield. Her parents grew up on nearby farms in Oregon’s Pacific Coast Range; Brown courted Lena by traveling 15 miles to her stand to buy berries.

Mr. Wakefield, a World War I veteran, ran a lumber mill in Camas Valley and his daughters were raised there and later at the family farm in Eddyville, Oregon. Marie learned to count by tallying the logs as they were rolled into the mill pond.

The family was not wealthy. Mrs. Wakefield was known for being a sure shot and used her Winchester to take down game a field away. When a fire burned their house, the Wakefields lived in a chicken coop until they could rebuild. They managed to save the piano, which Marie played although one side of the casing was scorched.

Marie was the valedictorian of her high school class of a dozen or so students; her husband kept a copy of her valedictory speech in a safety deposit box with his other most valuable possessions.

The two met after he returned from serving in the Army during World War II. Baisel Elmer Spencer was raised in Texas but struck out for Oregon as part of a crew that built camps for men to bring phone service to rural areas. One Saturday night, he went with some buddies to a Grange Hall dance. “She picked me out of the crowd,” he said of Marie Wakefield.

He tried to impress her family by roping a runaway bull with his lasso; he made his mark but toppled from the trestle where he stood, much to the amusement of the Wakefield family. Mr. Spencer was surprised when she kissed him one morning at her family’s breakfast table.

Not long after, on the top of Camas Mountain, he asked her to marry him with words he remembered more than a half-century later: “Would you do me the pleasure of making me the happiest man in the world for the rest of my life?”

She said yes. Their marriage lasted 64 years, ending only with his death on Aug. 28, 2014.

Mr. Spencer helped build their house in Eugene — particularly proud of the hipped roof — where they raised their two sons, Gary and Gregg, in a brand new neighborhood full of young families and close friends.

Mr. Spencer co-owned a business repairing hydraulic jacks. Mrs. Spencer helped with the books but devoted herself to raising their sons.

When her boys were in school full-time, she started working at a bank. She handled complaint calls with aplomb, soothing irritated customers with her no-nonsense approach to solving their problems. She went on to work in the real-estate office of the bank before retiring.

She and her husband thoroughly enjoyed their retirement years. They spend two decades crisscrossing the country many times in their RV, making friends and visiting relatives along the way.

Mrs. Spencer snapped pictures of the sights they saw and made many photo albums of their adventures. They frequently visited their elder son and his wife and daughters on the East Coast and traveled as far as Australia to visit their younger son and his family in their home there.

Both of the Spencers enjoyed maintaining their park-like yard in Eugene. Mrs. Spencer suffered a stroke four days after her husband died. A quietly determined woman, she fought her way back so that she could return to her beloved home.

She liked to watch her yard — the flowers, the birds at her feeder — even when she could no longer tend to it herself. She liked reading the newspaper and keeping an eye on her neighbors and the weather.

“Storm’s coming,” she’d caution. “Better put on a coat.”

****

Marie Louise (née Wakefield) Spencer is survived by her two sons, Gary Spencer and his wife, Melissa Hale-Spencer, of Altamont, New York and Gregg Spencer and his wife, Nguyen Thi Hong Chi, of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and by her grandchildren, Magdalena Hale Spencer of Princeton, New Jersey, Saranac Hale Spencer of Philadelphia, and Samuel Crawford Spencer and Nina Crawford Spencer, both of Queensland, Australia.

She is also survived by her sister, Doris Stadelman of Redding, California; her youngest sister, Helen Blunck, died in 2012. Her brother-in-law, Allen Blunck, of Springfield, Oregon, survives her and, since Mrs. Spencer’s husband died, came nearly every day to her home to check up on her and tend to her yard.

Memorial services will be held later.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Audubon Society of Portland, 5151 NW Cornell Road, Portland, OR 97210.  

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

 

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