Josephine Winner Spahr died on Wednesday June 23, 2010 just two months short of 103 years of age. She moved from Port Charlotte, Fl., four years after the death of her husband in 2003 and found new life on Martha’s Vineyard with her daughter, Virginia McClure, and her partner, Arlene Bodge. She loved the concerts, the scenic drives, the ice cream, and the ocean. Often accompanied by her caregiver, Jacquie McGillicuddy, Jo became well recognized across the Island. Having lived a quiet life in Florida, she relished becoming more active at the age of 99, celebrating each subsequent birthday in grand style with new friends here. She delighted us all with her quick wit and cheerfulness, both gifts that blossomed in later life.
Josephine was born in Philadelphia, Penn., worked as a secretary for a short while, and then married Herman Spahr and devoted herself to her family while occasionally volunteering in the local library. One of the highlights of her life was traveling solo to Ethiopia where she spent the Christmas holidays with Virginia and her husband, along with three granddaughters Barbara, Caroline, and Miriam. Finding the location primitive, the culture exotic, and the people alluring and hospitable, she made the time an adventure. Her stories of that adventure were legion and legend.
Jo’s first-born, Herman Jr., died in 2008 of cancer in Kansas City where his wife, Audrey, still resides. Younger son Stephen lives in Port Charlotte, Fla. Josephine’s long life brought her 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Having lost her own parents when young and growing up as an only child, this was a great gift to her. Most of Jo’s survivors live in Chicago, others are in Nashville, Washington D.C., New Hope, Tampa, and New Haven. Sadly, one grandson, Steve, died of cancer at the age of 29.
Her legacy, in addition to her family, is courage, strength, and flexibility throughout life’s challenges. The afghans she crocheted are treasures. The music from her uncle, Septimus Winner, brought much pleasure, especially “Whispering Hope” and “Listen to the Mockingbird.” Hearing them sung brought her comfort during her final days. Jo died in peace at Atria Woodbriar in Falmouth, where she spent her last several months, still in good health, and expressing much gratitude for her life and the companionship in its latter phase.