Uncle Spencer, getting ready to marry Jim (to Ducky), 1998Our dear uncle Spence, Spencer Conrad Boise, passed away earlier this month.

This is a personal blog post: a chance to say, for the record, a little of what this wonderful man meant to me, and to us. Those of you who are here for i18n or technology stuff, we’ll get back to that next time.

When we family gathered to pay our respects, it was one of those bittersweet occasions — wonderful to see everyone, terrible about the reason; a sad event, but then, when a good person leads a long and happy life and has a quick and peaceful death, a happier outcome than others we could imagine.

When I was a young child growing up near Cincinnati, Ohio, Spencer and his inseparable wife Marty, and their five children, lived right next door to us. It gave our families a close bond, which persists to this day. In fact, soon after I met Ducky and we took our first road trip together, it was to visit Spence and Marty, and some of their kids, in Santa Barbara.

One thing I really appreciated about Spence was that he had a special relationship with me.  When I talked to him, I felt like the most important person in his world. He had a way of paying attention to me, and where I was in my life, and what mattered to me, and what troubles I was having.  One particular episode I remember was when I was about ten, and had invented an imaginary world for myself. Spencer took it seriously, and asked me detailed questions about my world and what it was like there, convincing me that he cared, and probably convincing himself that I wasn’t going nuts. Well, it turned out that Spence lavished that kind of attention on everyone in the family. One of the things that made Spence special, was that he made us all feel special.

Spence was a particularly good at caring for others in the family who needed care and support.  He was there for me, he was there for my mother (his sister), he was there for my siblings, he was there in a really big and moving way for his brother Doug.

In 1998, as Ducky and I planned our wedding, we picked Spence as our officiant. He had gravitas, yet a wonderful sense of play. His marriage to Marty was a role model for us. Spence and Marty (or “Mom”, as he called her) were one of the all time great teams.  At his memorial, in fact, Spence’s children pointed out that it was almost impossible to find a good picture of Spence that didn’t have Marty in it. Anyhow, we hoped some of the magic would transfer. And thanks to California family law, he had a special deputisation that allowed him to legally marry us. The pictures here are from that day.

Below is his obituary.  Apparently Spence wrote it himself, another act of getting everything in order by a guy who was on top of a lot of things.

Jim, Spence, and Ducky laugh at something hilarious Jim's brother John saidSpencer Conrad Boise died from natural causes on Sept. 3, 2010, at age 86. His greatest joy in life was sharing the love and affection of Martha Tavis, his wife of 58 years, and their five children and families, including 18 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren living in California, Montana, Hawaii, Texas, New Jersey and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Spencer was born in Bismarck in 1924, to Lillian and Spencer S. Boise of Bismarck, both of whom were very active in Bismarck civic and social activities. His wife, Martha, formerly of Bismarck, is the daughter of Geraldine and A.R. Tavis of Bismarck. Spencer graduated from Bismarck High School, after earning honors as an all-state football player on a state championship team.

At age 18, he volunteered for service in World War II with the Army Air Corps. He served as an enlisted man with the Ninth Air Command in England and France, and was discharged Thanksgiving Day 1945. Aided by the G.I. Bill, he obtained his college education at the University of Chicago with a B.A. in 1948 and an M.B.A. in 1951. At Chicago, he was a four-year letterman, captain of the varsity basketball team and president of his fraternity.

Spencer started his business career in the Midwest in basic steel and general insurance. He worked at Murphy Insurance in Bismarck. He joined Procter & Gamble in 1956, serving in consumer products in Cincinnati. Four years later, he was designated director of public relations and consumer affairs for all Procter & Gamble products in the U.S.

In 1968, Spencer and Marty moved their young family to California, when he was named vice president and general manager for the Los Angeles office of an international public relations firm. Four years later, he was selected as the vice president of Corporate Affairs for Mattel with responsibilities for the company’s public relations and consumer affairs programs. He retired in 1988, and he and Marty have lived in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara and at the Hollister Ranch, a coastal community 40 miles westward, ever since.

During his career and into retirement, Spencer was active in business and community leadership positions. In New York City, he served on the board of directors for the Association of National Advertisers, including a term as chairman; also as a director for boards on the Ad Council, the National Advertising Review Board and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. In Arlington, Va., he was an organizer and early national president of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals. In California, he was elected to terms as president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the United Negro Fund for Southern California. Following retirement, he was appointed foreman of the Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury, elected president of Montecito’s Emergency Response Program and served cumulatively more than 25 years on the board of directors for three local homeowners associations.

Spence playing with grandson NoleSpencer maintained his interest in sports, especially football and basketball. His many friends were important to him, and he cared for them in numerous ways. He enjoyed his roles as grandfather and uncle. Dozens of young people throughout the family counted on him as mentor, teacher and special friend. Family and friends alike appreciated his wisdom and consistent good humor.  

In addition to Marty, Spencer is survived by the families of their five children, including daughters, Barbara (Michael) Walsh, Beverly (Kit) Boise-Cossart and Brenda, and sons, Steven (Laura) and Phil. His sister, Elizabeth Allwyn, lives in Bellingham, Wash.; and younger brother, Douglas, died in 1995.

In accordance with Spencer’s wishes, the family will hold a memorial service at the Santa Barbara Cemetery Chapel before interment there.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Autism Society of Santa Barbara, P.O. Box 30364, Santa Barbara, Calif. 93130; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, www.jdrf.org, P.O. Box 97151, Washington, D.C. 20090-7151; or the Friendship Paddle, www.friendshippaddle.org, 920 Garden St., Suite A, Santa Barbara, Calif. 93101.