Chapel Hill - Shirley House Spencer, age 86, died on March 30, 2019 at Chatham Ridge Assisted Living Horizons Unit, which had been her home since June 2016. Shirley was preceded in death by her husband, John Franklin Spencer, in April 2016.
Shirley Jean House was born on July 21, 1932 to the late J. Fredericka Coleman and C. Clarence House in Rochester, NY. She was the eldest daughter of seven children and was raised at “Crescent Lea” dairy farm in Avon, NY. After the untimely death of her mother in 1953, Shirley assumed the role of family matriarch and historian. Shirley was educated at the Avon Central School, graduating in 1950. During her youth she developed a talent for music and benefitted from training at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. She was an accomplished French Horn and Piano player and had a lovely Alto singing voice. Musical expression remained important to her throughout her life.
Shirley earned her college degree from Cornell University College of Home Economics [now called Human Ecology] in 1954. During her college years she belonged to the concert band, served as secretary of the Women’s Glee Club and as Treasurer of the Omega Chi chapter of Kappa Delta Sorority. It was at Cornell that she was introduced to John [a native of Ithaca and also Cornell class of 1954] on a blind date.
Shirley and John were married on April 16, 1955 in Avon. John entered the Air Force and the couple were stationed in San Antonio, TX followed by Columbus, OH. The couple returned to Ithaca in 1958 where John served in the Air Force Reserve and earned his Masters degree in Plant Science from Cornell. They raised their family within 2 blocks of John’s childhood home, enjoying the proximity to their Alma Mater. Shirley maintained a meaningful relationship with the Omega Chi Chapter of Kappa Delta sorority and served as House Corporation President for many years. Shirley and John relocated to Chapel Hill in 1999 following John’s retirement from Cornell Undergraduate Admissions. They embraced the community, especially their neighborhood of Southern Village and Christ United Methodist Church where Shirley belonged to the Altar Guild, played Hand Bells, and sang in the Chancel Choir.
Shirley is survived by her daughter Linda, and husband Butch Fowler, of Chapel Hill; son John and wife, Kathy of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania; 4 grandchildren, Virginia Fox and husband Bart, of Chapel Hill, RJ Crumpler of Durham NC, Caroline and Jane Spencer of Wynnewood [Caroline is a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill]; great granddaughter, Marilyn Spencer Fox of Chapel Hill, and her Fowler family, Susan and Joe Credle of Millbrook, NY, Cas, Johanna, Savannah, and Forbes Fowler of Asheville [Savannah is a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill], and Leah, Justin and Grant Waldrop of Hillsborough, NC. Shirley is also survived by her six siblings: Don [Donna] House, Joan House Irwin, Roger [Pat] House, Richard [Donna] House, Robert [Ginny] House, and Sally House Engel , 15 nieces and nephews, and her brother and sister in law Gordon and Eve Spencer of San Diego, CA.
The family would like to thank the staff of the Horizons Unit at Chatham Ridge and especially her private care givers who loved her as their own: Jenny, Tioshia, Angelo ,and Phyllis , her physician Dr. Lindsay Wilson, the Palliative Care At Home team from UNC, and Dr. Daniel Steinert [director of music at CUMC] for faithfully providing music and kindness to the Chatham Ridge Community.
A Memorial Service will be held at 2pm on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Christ United Methodist Church,800 Market Street, Southern Village, Chapel Hill. A private interment service for Shirley and John will be held in New York at a later date.
Memorial Donations may be made to: Christ United Methodist Church Music Ministry Fund, 105 Market Street, Chapel Hill, NC. 27516; Kappa Delta Foundation, 3205 Players Lane, Memphis, TN. 3812; or to The Avon Preservation and Historical Society [AP&HS}, 23 Genesee Street, Avon, NY, 14414. Please write on memo lines: gift in memory of Shirley Spencer.
The Spencer family is under the care of Walker's Funeral Home of Chapel Hill. Please express your online condolence using the tab below.