Longtime garden club member was advocate for change

By Zoe Jovanovich | Jun 26, 2013
Courtesy of: Susan Spencer Mukilteo Way Garden Club members laid out flowers and pictures in memoriam for 53-year member Jean Spencer at their June 19 meeting, held at Spencer’s house. Spencer passed away on May 9.

Those who knew Jean Spencer say she didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion, and that she was both charming and down to Earth.

A member of the Mukilteo Way Garden Club for 53 years, Spencer passed away in her home in Everett on May 9. She was 89. She had been the club’s longest standing member.

“She believed in strong ties with family and friends,” said daughter Susan Spencer. “And nurtured those relationships through responsibility, generosity and genuine appreciation of how small things could make such a big difference in peoples' lives.”

Spencer was born Feb. 9, 1924 in Spokane and grew up in Prosser. She moved to Everett in 1947 with her husband, Dr. Bob Spencer, after earning a degree in nursing from the University of Washington.

Together, Jean and Bob had two daughters, Janet Wallace and Susan Spencer.

She worked as a nurse at Harborview Hospital and Northern State Hospital during World War II, was later a nurse for her husband’s practice. She also was a volunteer nurse at the American Red Cross and other various organizations.

“As a retired nurse, she stayed interested in the profession,” Susan said. “[She] attended continuing education classes, supported nursing scholarships, and was always available to friends for ‘informal consultation’ on aches and pains.”

The Mukilteo Way Garden Club was described as “very traditional” when Spencer joined in 1959.

Prospective members had to be interviewed and invited for membership, women wore hats and white gloves to meetings – and no one was allowed to speak out of turn.

“Jean's influence was to loosen things up, make membership open to anyone interested in gardening, and to make meetings enjoyable, social occasions where friendships could blossom,” Susan said.

Jean Spencer was the first president of the club to be credited with her own name. All past presidents were credited with their husband’s name or his initials.

“A lot of changes have been made, and she supported those changes, because she thought the club was making progress,” said club member and friend Pat Dennis.

Whenever a topic was brought up for discussion, members said Spencer always had something to say.

“She had a good way of expressing her opinions,” Dennis said. “She wasn’t critical.”

Spencer was also an advocate of educational opportunities. She organized a group of parents to form the first kindergarten in Mukilteo, when Rosehill School didn’t have one.

She supported nursing scholarships, and scholarships through the garden club for those interested in landscaping, gardening or similar pursuits.

“She liked to find a need and fill it,” Susan said.

Jean Spencer also took pride in the fact that her home on Mukilteo Boulevard was the original house in which the Mukilteo Way Garden Club was founded in 1933. This year marks the club’s 80th anniversary.

The June meeting had been scheduled to be held at Spencer’s house before she passed away. As a tribute to her memory, members decided to still have it there on June 19.

A memorial table was set up in her honor, and each of the club members brought flowers.

“She was just a delightful person,” Club President Jean Skerlong said. “I wish I knew her better. She was just really down to Earth.”

Zoe Jovanovich is an intern for the Mukilteo Beacon.

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