Harold Spencer passed away peacefully March 5, 2016 in Davis. He was born Oct. 1, 1920 in Corning, N.Y.
An artist, art historian, and educator, “Spence” was predeceased by his beloved wife of 63 years, a painter, printmaker and poet, the former Editha Hayes of Oakland, 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, Ill., 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 and served on its Board of Directors for many years. An accomplished artist, he exhibited in over 150 group and solo shows 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, 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 nonprofit.
Spence is survived by sons David (Judy) of Mansfield, Conn.; Robert (Phyllis) of Tomball, Texas; Eric (Sue) of Mansfield, Conn.; Mark (Lorraine) of Davis; Ellen Spencer of Los Angeles; 10 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 share a memory with the family, please visit Smith-Funerals.com. Interment in Paso Robles will be private.