Remembrance At The Gurnet
At midday on Saturday, July 19, at Gurnet Light, a joyous life was remembered in a joyous ceremony. A flagpole honoring the late William F. (Bill) Spang was dedicated by Project Gurnet and Bug Lights (originally Project Bug Light) – which Bill spent the final 30 years of his life energetically supporting. Fifty of Bill's friends and all five of his children were there – the latter gathered from Hingham, Hawaii, Philadelphia and Providence. Chiseled into stone at the foot of the flagpole are the words "A Salty Volunteer."
Bill Spang was born in Marshfield in 1915 and died at 97 in his Duxbury home on Jan. 2, 2013. He graduated from Thayer Academy in 1934 and Harvard College in 1938. He entered the U.S. Army in 1941 but was discharged later in the year to enter a war industry – converting his family's meat packing business to armaments-production. Later in the war he served in the Navy. "The greatest generation!"
Bill met his wife Anne at his 10th Harvard reunion in 1948. They had five children and, wherever Bill's international business took them, always summered in Duxbury. Anne Hoyt Spang died in 1966, leaving Bill to raise five beautiful children (as they still are), ranging at the time from toddlers to teenagers. This he did with the same energy, seriousness, good humor and spirit of mischief that all who encountered him in business, charity, sailing, skiing or traveling the world would know.
Bill's support for Project Gurnet and Bug Lights, which took him from age 67 to age 97, was indefatigable. He would climb onto Bug Light with a chisel or a paint brush like a 20-something. Inspiration – a physical act that was really an act of the spirit. Bill Spang's essence.
All of this was captured on Saturday in moving remarks by Dolly Bicknell, president of Project Gurnet and Bug Lights; and by Shirley Jenkins, the widow of Dr. Donald Muirhead. Don Muirhead was Bill's dear friend and passionate colleague in working to save our two lighthouses.
Bill Spang's spirit was equally well-reflected in the smiles on people's faces. Nearly all the invited guests only knew Bill during his nearly 47 years as a widower. Knew him by the bright socks marked "right" and "left" he mischievously wore reversed – part of the man, for sure, but not the whole.
Bill liked women and squired a number of fine ladies around over the years. But he never remarried. Yet he never expressed self-pity or publicly complained about the loss of the love of his life. All his life, unto his very old age, he taught us how to live and how to serve. Flashing in the night and groaning in a fog, standing straight in the future as they did in the past, Gurnet and Bug Lights will be a tribute to him.
–D.A. Mittell, Jr.