Obituary: Bernice (Bunny) Spanier

Great grandmother, married 70 years, realtor, volunteer

Bernice (Bunny) Spanier died peacefully in Irvine, California recently after a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and complications from pneumonia.

Bunny was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The family lived in Mobridge where her father owned and operated the town’s only general store. His customers were mostly Native Americans who lived on reservations at Standing Rock and Cheyenne River.

When she was born, she was showered with beautiful (mostly handmade) gifts from the Natives, who were quite taken with the “little princess.” Later, the family, which included her brother Martin (Sonny) Hoffman, who was two years older than her, moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to gain access to the city’s superior schools. Later they moved to Minneapolis, where her father began a successful partnership with his brother, Sam Hoffman, manufacturing and selling Twin Cities souvenirs.

“She was an extremely popular young woman with dark hair, dark eyes and a warm personality,” her family shared. “She would light up any room she walked into with her beautiful smile and sparkling personality.”

She met her husband-to-be, Jerome (Jerry) Spanier at the University of Minnesota. They married in the summer of 1952 and moved to Chicago, where Jerry was a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

She enrolled in the education department at the university to pursue her interest in teaching elementary school. Her husband’s goal was to teach mathematics at the graduate school level, and she gladly postponed her teaching ambitions to help support his graduate studies, working in the chancellor’s office at the University of Chicago as receptionist and administrative assistant while he studied mathematics and physics.

After earning a PhD in mathematics in 1955, he also deferred his teaching ambition to learn about real-world applications of mathematics and accepted industrial research positions at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in suburban Pittsburgh and Rockwell International in Thousand Oaks, California. Following 17 years in applied industrial research, he accepted a teaching position at Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University).

In Claremont she was a successful realtor with Coldwell Banker. She also volunteered as a teacher/mentor in the Claremont schools that offered special classes to high-achieving young students.

Throughout her life she enjoyed making new friends through volunteer work in the Claremont schools and at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, where she initiated the hospital’s cancer library, building it from scratch to its present extensive holdings.

The couple travelled extensively while they lived in Claremont as Mr. Spanier took advantage of sabbatical appointments at many foreign universities.

“Theirs was a happy and loving 70-year marriage built upon a foundation of mutual respect, unselfishness, and a deep and abiding love for each other,” her family added.

She is survived by her husband, Jerry; children, Steve, and twin daughters Ruth and Adrienne; seven grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.

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