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Harold Spencer passed away peacefully March 5, 2016 in Davis, California. He was born October 1, 1920 in Corning, N.Y.
An artist, art historian, and educator, "Spence" was predeceased by his beloved wife of 63 years, a painter and printmaker, the former Editha Hayes of Oakland, California, whom he met while serving as a merchant marine navigation officer during WW II.
Spence began his formal schooling in a one room rural schoolhouse. After graduating high school, he went to New York City, where he was studying at the Art Student's League when Pearl Harbor was attacked. After the war, he received his B.A. and M.A. in art from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in art history from Harvard University. He taught art and art history at Blackburn College, Carlinville, Illinois, and at Occidental College in Los Angeles before finishing his teaching career at the University of Connecticut. He was the author of numerous art history publications and curated exhibitions at several Connecticut museums. He helped found the Weir Farm Trust and National Historic Site dedicated to American painting. An accomplished painter and printmaker, he participated in over 150 group and solo exhibitions across the U.S. between 1941 and 2015.
Spence loved the outdoors, and in 1954 took Editha and four young sons on an 8,000 mile tent camping trip, circling the U.S. towing a one wheeled trailer-kitchen he built himself. He designed and constructed furniture and with the help of his sons converted a 19th century Connecticut dairy barn into an art studio.
In 2001, Editha and Spence returned to California from Connecticut, to Paso Robles on the central coast, where he continued to draw and paint with a congenial group of fellow artists at the Studios on the Park, an arts cooperative and education non-profit.
Spence is survived by sons David (Judy) of Mansfield, Connecticut; Robert (Phyllis) of Tomball, Texas; Eric (Sue) of Mansfield, Connecticut; Mark (Lorraine) of Davis, California; Ellen Spencer of Los Angeles; ten grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. The family wishes to express special thanks to Spence's caregiver and companion Semi.
Memorial donations may be sent to Studios on the Park, P.O. Box 3000, Paso Robles, California 93447.
To the Spencer family: I own a treasured work of Spence's. He asked me to try to find the locations of scenes of some of Wilson Henry Irvine's work in Northwest France for his book "WHI and the Poetry of Light"--such a delight in sharing my results with him. I regret that I never saw Spence and Editha once they moved to CA. They were very special people for us. Their Joy for life lives on in us. Julie Lindquist (and Carl)
Julie Lindquist Apr 26 2016 12:00 AM
a gifted artist whos best work was his children eric was a dear friend when we were young men,a fact I still cherish so to all the spencer clan I send my condolences he always made me smile just like his boy Robert hanka
robert hanka Mar 15 2016 12:00 AM
Our warmest condolences and sympathy to all the Spencers for your wonderful father. May he rest in peace and joy in the midst of the beauty of heaven. Amen, Ruth and Bill Moynihan
Ruth & Bill Moynihan Mar 12 2016 12:00 AM
Hal, and his wife Editha, were wonderful members of the community around the University of CT. Hal was always welcoming and delighted to see his friends. He was gentle and so talented. His art often celebrated the colorful southwest, and was so colorful and full of life. He and Editha contributed their gentle vision to the community, and most certainly personified joie de'vivre with their gentle ways of seeing. I have thought of them often over the years, was sad when Editha passed, and am glad that Hal had a fulland still productive life. He was a gentle soul. Fran Funk Coventry, CT
Frances L. Funk Mar 11 2016 12:00 AM