Mary Gordon Spence

Photo 1 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-TribunePhoto 2 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Photo 1 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-TribunePhoto 2 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-Tribune

Mary Gordon Spence

Austin - February 21, 1947 - January 13, 2022 When you begin life as Valentine Queen of the first grade and achieve the honorific of Brownwood High's Miss Friendly, what could be expected to follow but fame for the most extravagant Christmas light display in South Austin?

In addition to illuminating her neighborhood, Mary Gordon (that's her double first name in true Southern fashion) brilliantly decorated every space she occupied, especially classrooms—kindergarten to college (teaching at the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua, La Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, Austin's Blackshear Elementary, Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and the Texas Intensive English Program). She brightened even more spaces while serving as Ombudsman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, directing programs for the Texas General Land Office, including Texas Adopt-A-Beach, and working for one well-known former president (the D) with deep Texas roots like her own. Her light shined brightest while teaching English as a second language to international students. It was Mary Gordon's goal to have people around the world speak English with a Texas twang.

After changing her major several times, Mary Gordon graduated with her class (at her parents' imperative) with a degree in education from The University of Texas at Austin. She received her M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from La Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, and studied advanced mediation at Harvard and MIT.

Most Austinites best remember Mary Gordon Spence for her editorials in the Austin American-Statesman and as a record-breaking fundraiser on KUT-FM. For nearly 30 years her sparkling banter entertained listeners, convincing them to phone in their donations ("dial 471-6291"). Stories she told on the air made their way around Central Texas and beyond. No matter the country or county (and she knew all 254 in Texas), fans would recognize her dear drawl, delightfully declaring, "You're Mary Gordon Spence!" Indeed she was.

Mary Gordon was the mistress of magic, creating or finding it everywhere and everyday. Proof points appear in her book, Finding Magic in the Mundane. As a popular keynote speaker, Mary Gordon provided magic-making memories at school convocations, book clubs, bars, and conferences throughout the country.

She was a giver— of gifts, grammar lessons, insight, home-cooked meals, funky jewelry, travel, songs (preferably sung in rounds), ukulele performances, and her time. She volunteered throughout her life for organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Hospice Austin, Foundation Communities, political campaigns, and more. She hoped to volunteer for Texas Oncology as soon as her treatments concluded once and for all.

Mary Gordon, sister of Susan and Royito, was born in Brownwood, Texas to Ruth Griffin and Roy Spence Sr. on her mother's birthday. She was the first on her block to get a hula hoop, a pastime just slightly more entertaining than running after insecticide-spewing fogging machines with her life-long neighborhood friends. As a child, Mary Gordon had visions of performing in musical comedies—on Broadway, of course—and directing world-class choral groups. She found her real calling with the birth of her children, Noelle and Milam Newby, whom she reared with joy, love, wisdom, and some levity thrown in for good measure.

MG's hopes for Noelle and Milam were that they (1) speak Spanish, (2) play the piano, (3) become kind, trustworthy, wise, and responsible citizens, and (4) continue the Spence family legacy of supporting Democratic candidates. How well her children turned out, exceeding all the hopes and dreams of their mother!

As if her cup weren't already full, Noelle and Milam chose wonderful spouses: Matt Miskovsky and Victoria Reddy. Those joyful unions produced Mary Gordon's way-above-average grandchildren—William, Caroline, and Henry Newby and Griffin and Hazel Miskovsky. All of whom are Austinites who often break into spontaneous song, just like MG. They treasured their beloved Nini beyond measure, shining like Christmas ornaments in her heart for eternity.

In true Mary Gordon style, a celebration of life and light (also known as her going away party) will be held on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 2:00 in the afternoon at The University of Texas at Austin Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.

Until then, MG asks us all to "shower the people you love with love."

In lieu of flowers, donations to Hospice Austin [www.hospiceaustin.org], Austin PBS [www.austinpbs.org], or another organization of your choice (for example, the Texas Democratic Party [www.texasdemocrats.org]) in her honor are appreciated.

Posted online on January 25, 2022

Published in Stephenville Empire-Tribune

Photo 1 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-TribunePhoto 2 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Photo 1 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-TribunePhoto 2 - Obituaries in Stephenville, TX | Stephenville Empire-Tribune

Mary Gordon Spence

Mary Gordon Spence

Austin - February 21, 1947 - January 13, 2022 When you begin life as Valentine Queen of the first grade and achieve the honorific of Brownwood High's Miss Friendly, what could be expected to follow but fame for the most extravagant Christmas light display in South Austin?

In addition to illuminating her neighborhood, Mary Gordon (that's her double first name in true Southern fashion) brilliantly decorated every space she occupied, especially classrooms—kindergarten to college (teaching at the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua, La Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, Austin's Blackshear Elementary, Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and the Texas Intensive English Program). She brightened even more spaces while serving as Ombudsman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, directing programs for the Texas General Land Office, including Texas Adopt-A-Beach, and working for one well-known former president (the D) with deep Texas roots like her own. Her light shined brightest while teaching English as a second language to international students. It was Mary Gordon's goal to have people around the world speak English with a Texas twang.

After changing her major several times, Mary Gordon graduated with her class (at her parents' imperative) with a degree in education from The University of Texas at Austin. She received her M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from La Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, and studied advanced mediation at Harvard and MIT.

Most Austinites best remember Mary Gordon Spence for her editorials in the Austin American-Statesman and as a record-breaking fundraiser on KUT-FM. For nearly 30 years her sparkling banter entertained listeners, convincing them to phone in their donations ("dial 471-6291"). Stories she told on the air made their way around Central Texas and beyond. No matter the country or county (and she knew all 254 in Texas), fans would recognize her dear drawl, delightfully declaring, "You're Mary Gordon Spence!" Indeed she was.

Mary Gordon was the mistress of magic, creating or finding it everywhere and everyday. Proof points appear in her book, Finding Magic in the Mundane. As a popular keynote speaker, Mary Gordon provided magic-making memories at school convocations, book clubs, bars, and conferences throughout the country.

She was a giver— of gifts, grammar lessons, insight, home-cooked meals, funky jewelry, travel, songs (preferably sung in rounds), ukulele performances, and her time. She volunteered throughout her life for organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Hospice Austin, Foundation Communities, political campaigns, and more. She hoped to volunteer for Texas Oncology as soon as her treatments concluded once and for all.

Mary Gordon, sister of Susan and Royito, was born in Brownwood, Texas to Ruth Griffin and Roy Spence Sr. on her mother's birthday. She was the first on her block to get a hula hoop, a pastime just slightly more entertaining than running after insecticide-spewing fogging machines with her life-long neighborhood friends. As a child, Mary Gordon had visions of performing in musical comedies—on Broadway, of course—and directing world-class choral groups. She found her real calling with the birth of her children, Noelle and Milam Newby, whom she reared with joy, love, wisdom, and some levity thrown in for good measure.

MG's hopes for Noelle and Milam were that they (1) speak Spanish, (2) play the piano, (3) become kind, trustworthy, wise, and responsible citizens, and (4) continue the Spence family legacy of supporting Democratic candidates. How well her children turned out, exceeding all the hopes and dreams of their mother!

As if her cup weren't already full, Noelle and Milam chose wonderful spouses: Matt Miskovsky and Victoria Reddy. Those joyful unions produced Mary Gordon's way-above-average grandchildren—William, Caroline, and Henry Newby and Griffin and Hazel Miskovsky. All of whom are Austinites who often break into spontaneous song, just like MG. They treasured their beloved Nini beyond measure, shining like Christmas ornaments in her heart for eternity.

In true Mary Gordon style, a celebration of life and light (also known as her going away party) will be held on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 2:00 in the afternoon at The University of Texas at Austin Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.

Until then, MG asks us all to "shower the people you love with love."

In lieu of flowers, donations to Hospice Austin [www.hospiceaustin.org], Austin PBS [www.austinpbs.org], or another organization of your choice (for example, the Texas Democratic Party [www.texasdemocrats.org]) in her honor are appreciated.

Posted online on January 25, 2022

Published in Stephenville Empire-Tribune