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Longtime Bolinas resident, innkeeper and restaurateur Gwenn Spangler passed away in her sleep the evening of August 29. A memorial service and graveside party was held in the Bolinas Cemetery on September 12. The memorial featured food and beverages, music, and a poem by poet and friend, Joanne Kyger. The following is a eulogy written and read by Alex Horvath, a Spangler family friend, and who worked for Gwenn at "The Shop."
Notes about Gwenn
I heard the other day that Gwenn was "selfless" and that she "took care of everyone" I am happy to have heard her grandson, Ben, speak of her that way. It is one of the ways I will remember her and it gives me hope that all of her grandchildren may have picked up a little bit of that in their genes.
It's all true. I will add to Ben's words that Gwenn loved her husband, children, and grandchildren, and others "unconditionally." Other words that could easily describe Gwenn would be "elegant," "funny," and, at times, "completely stressed out." Let's not forget "honest," "responsible," and "compassionate." She had a great sense of style that could be found not only in the old fashioned cash register from The Shop and The Blue Heron, but in the clothes that she wore, books that lined shelves, her garden, and art. She had an old-fashioned sensibility-originating in Pasadena-that nicely morphed with our eclectic coastal community.
I remembered a lot through spending some time with Bud, Sara, Ted and Ben the other evening. I was reminded of how Gwenn loved her home and that she had a flare for decorating. This triggered memories of when the Spangler's would entertain - always a classy party - and certainly part of the reason we are all here today. I also recalled that Gwenn liked to write poetry, although I have never read one of her poems. And that she had a good singing voice. I learned that Bud loved Gwenn from the moment he saw her. Every marriage is different-and theirs lasted 55 years. I recalled her many "Oh, Buddy's" - usually after he said something funny or innocently inexcusable.
I met Gwenn when the Spangler's moved to Bolinas in 1971 and I became friends with their kids. Later, the summer that I graduated from Bolinas School, I bugged her to hire me at "The Shop" - which she eventually did for $1/hour - which was about what I had been making as a 13-year old babysitting in town. I worked there afternoons and on weekends until January 1981.
She was kind and caring - and let me stay at the Spangler house when my family moved to Hawaii when I was sixteen. During this time, I injured myself at Tam High, tripping over a fence, and could not sit up in bed the next day. I lay there on my back screaming for help. Gwenn had the solution: she soaked a towel in ice cold water and placed it on my stomach. I sat straight up! She was then able to take me to a doctor and a chiropractor. I'm sure that she must have been busy with the restaurant. I have no idea where she found the time to do this.
During a growth spurt, there was a time when I was very costly to The Shop. Each time I reached for a milkshake glass or a sundae goblet my lanky arm would take out a row of them - broken glass everywhere. This happened at least five times and I would volunteer to pay for them but she would tell me to forget about it, that it was part of growing.
After my family moved back from Hawaii and we had a house up on Evergreen Road, Gwenn gave me a ride home one evening. She then came into the house and scolded my mother for allowing me to put my "hard-earned-money" - her term - into our house. Because my mother respected Gwenn she didn't argue and never had a bad word to say about her. She knew that Gwenn cared. And there was nothing wrong with that. I know that I will be visiting both of them here.
Later in years, before I had completely gotten my "act together" (a term that Gwenn would have used), I was in the midst of a divorce and working on paying off traffic tickets. For some reason, a mistake, a "no-bail" warrant for my arrest was in the system, and two deputies had come looking for me while I ate breakfast one morning in front of The Shop. I recall Gwenn coming out, seeing me in handcuffs, and asking what was going on. The deputies told her that they were taking me to jail. The best was when she exclaimed, "Well, can't you let the boy at least finish his breakfast!"
Thinking back on all that has happened over the years I am humbled by the memory of when Gwenn finally let me go from ice cream scooping and dishwashing to helping prepare food. A few years later, the January that I quit, she and Bud arranged through their friend Steve McNamara, to get this young writer an interview with freshman congressperson Barbara Boxer when I was visiting Washington, D.C. that year. Boxer had been a reporter at the Pacific Sun before entering politics. I only learned of their part in this twelve years later when I was working for Steve at the Sun.
Like several people in the community have been, Gwenn, and the Spangler's, allowed me to stand on their shoulders to accomplish many of the events that have helped to shape my life.
Thank you, Gwenn.
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