By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
4:49 PM EDT, October 29, 2013
Joan A. Spurrier, a retired legal secretary and family matriarch, died of kidney failure Sunday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Idlewylde resident was 80.
Born Joan Anita Adams in Baltimore and raised on Beaumont Avenue in Govans, she was the daughter of Pius J. Adams, personnel manager for the Diamond taxicab company, and his wife, Elvina Adams.
Mrs. Spurrier was a 1951 graduate of Eastern High School, where she was the head majorette of its drum and bugle corps. She remained active in its alumnae association and remained class treasurer and worked on reunion committees.
After attending the old Mount St. Agnes College, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a senior, she was named Queen of the May during a May Day celebration and was listed in Who's Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.
"The sun shone through the clouds for her as she proceeded to her throne on the campus mall, attended by the princesses of her court," said The Baltimore Sun's 1957 story about her crowning. The Terrapin yearbook said she was chosen for the honor because of her "scholarship, citizenship and service to the University."
The Sun's account said she "showed her subjects a dimpled, winning smile and moved among them with ease and assurance." Musicians played "Pomp and Circumstance" during the ceremony, which was also attended by ushers and an honor guard.
Family members said that Mrs. Spurrier helped pay her academic expenses by serving as a hostess at the old McCormick headquarters on Light Street in downtown Baltimore. She dressed in 18th-century-style gowns and served tea at its Colonial tea house, a life-size display used to promote the firm's products.
She also worked on the White House staff during the Eisenhower administration and at the old Baltimore Federal Savings and Loan Association, also in downtown Baltimore.
For many years, she was a secretary for attorney George W. Baker and later was an executive secretary for radio station owner Thomas Tinsley. Among her duties was the supervision of his private, walled garden on Baltimore Avenue in downtown Towson, which was open one day a year.
Mrs. Spurrier was a past president of and belonged to the English-Speaking Union Garden Club and regularly officiated at teas and gatherings. She was a member of the Bykota Senior Club, where she did aerobics.
Mrs. Spurrier raised five sons.
"She was the drill sergeant and the disciplinarian," said a son, Stephen M. Spurrier of Towson. "I addressed my Mother's Day cards 'to the commander.' She directed us to get jobs as teenagers and she instilled in us the value of work and responsibility. She didn't let us sit around. She said, 'Do something.'"
She was an ardent patriot and led her family on annual vacations to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Mount Vernon in Virginia, the Washington Monument and New York City.
"She also valued our education and worked for us to attend good schools," said another son, Kurt R. Spurrier of Bethesda. "She also loved travel and adventure. She had a positive personality. She was excited to get in a hot-air balloon and tour Sedona, Arizona."
She was a enthusiastic duckpin bowler and competed weekly at the Stoneleigh Lanes near her home. She posted her scores on a bulletin board in her kitchen and celebrated her 80th birthday at the lanes. Family members said she called out and danced when she made a strike.
"She wanted us to take advantage of everything that life offered," said another son, Craig J. Spurrier of Towson.
She was a devoted Orioles fan and attended games at the old Memorial Stadium and during this past season at Oriole Park. Family members said she was a follower of third baseman Manny Machado. Her son took her to a game on the player's birthday and arranged for seats near third base. She made homemade congratulatory birthday signs and required her family to hold them. She also put words to a song, "My Manny."
Mrs. Spurrier was an accomplished piano player and accompanied her grandchildren at family Christmas and Easter gatherings and birthdays. She read biographies and novels and belonged to a book club.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Pius X Church, 6248 York Road, where she had been active for many years.
In addition to her sons, survivors include two other sons, Stuart T. Spurrier of Kitty Hawk, N.C., and Kevin D. Spurrier of Clarksville; a brother, Robert Adams of Charlotte, N.C.; and seven grandchildren. Her husband of 35 years, George R. Spurrier, a Bethlehem Steel foreman, died in 1995.
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