Joyce Spencer

Obituary of Joyce L. Spencer

Joyce Louise Spencer of Northport, NY, died peacefully at home on May 9, 2023. She was 95. Ms. Spencer was born in New Rochelle, NY on October 25, 1927, to Dorothy Louise (Schmidt) and Charles Leroy Spencer. While she did not come from a family of means, after graduating from New York University she began a life-long effort to help the disempowered and those less fortunate. Her efforts took many forms: as a social worker, a civil rights and human rights activist, a housing coordinator, a counselor and a teacher. Ms. Spencer was drawn to address injustice. She was an early participant in the fight for civil rights in the 1960s, organizing and rallying citizens to fight discrimination in housing on Long Island. She organized marches and sit-ins to protest unfair practices in housing and employment, and supported voter registration efforts. When in the mid1960s a woman was unable to rent an apartment on Long Island because the landlord did not want to rent to a Black person, she participated in a sit-in, which resulted in her arrest. This was one of many protests and marches she was a part of, and the first of four arrests for civil disobedience, none of which resulted in a conviction. After the violence on the Edmund Pettus bridge in 1965 she participated in a march to Montgomery under the protection of National Guard troops. She participated in the Freedom March on Washington in 1963, and again in the 50th Anniversary March in 2013. More than a half century before the #MeToo movement renewed focus on women's rights and autonomy, Ms. Spencer became an ardent feminist, advocating for gender equality in the workplace and at home. In the late 1960s, she started a business, Career Counseling for Women, to help women enter the workforce, often when they became empty nesters. She earned an MSW from Stony Brook University in 1972 and in 1979 she completed the doctoral course in social policy toward a DSW degree from Columbia School of Social Work. She served on the board of directors of the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk (VIBS), a domestic violence prevention agency, for 12 years, first as secretary and then as president for four years. She served on other boards and committees as well: the Suffolk Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, AARP, Literacy Volunteers of America, United Way and the Suffolk County Democratic Committee. She retired from working as a social worker at the Veterans Administration Medical Service in Northport, and was state certified as a Court Evaluator. In 1950, Ms. Spencer married Anthony E. Insolia, and they had three children. They divorced in 1979. A few years later, she met Philip C. Ingerman, her partner of 38 years. As a young mother, Ms. Spencer often worked outside the home. She worked with the National Conference of Christians and Jews to set up in-service teacher training courses for eliminating racial discrimination in the classroom. She was a member of the Huntington Township Committee on Human Relations and the Long Island Chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), where she helped relocate migrant workers living in duck coops on the Hollis Warner Duck Farm in Riverhead. Some of her efforts led to the establishment of a Huntington township housing authority, which had the power to prosecute landlords who failed to provide safe and sanitary conditions to renters. Her testimony in Albany contributed to NY state law banning discrimination in housing on the basis of race, creed or national origin. Ms. Spencer was a strong personality and a shrewd judge of character. If she liked you, there was no more loyal confidant, friend or adviser. And if she didn't, you would know it, because feigning affection was not one of her many strengths. She often dispensed judgments and opinions to those she cared for most. Many were welcome; some not so much, but they were always insightful and they helped mold her children into the adults they became. In her retirement she attended the adult learning program The Round Table at Stony Brook University, and taught the course "News of the Day" there for many years, moderating lively discussions among the attendees. She made many enduring friends from the program with whom she traveled and interacted for years. In her leisure time, Ms Spencer loved to garden, and had a beautiful yard featuring continuous blooms to show for it. She enjoyed entertaining; she was an excellent cook and was skilled at finding common ground to connect her diverse choice of guests. She was a formidable Scrabble player and avid reader. Ms. Spencer leaves her partner, Philip C. Ingerman of Northport; three children, Anne H. Smyers of Reston, VA, Robert S. Insolia of Bedford, NY, and Janet S. Insolia of Dover, NH.; five grandchildren, Julia Dary, Hudson Insolia, Kaitlan Ford, Abby Legere and Jake Ford; and two great grandchildren, Markham Dary and Finn Legere; a sister, Virginia Spencer of Olive Branch Mississippi.
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