Joan Spencer

Date(s) of birth and/or death approximate

Date of Birth

January 1st, 1932

Date of Death

April 7th, 2019

Memorial Meeting

Santa Fe Monthly Meeting


Joan Esther Spencer, 87, died on April 7, 2019 in Santa Fe, N.M. Joan spent her first years in Beijing and Shanghai where her father held academic posts. She earned a B.A. from Swarthmore College and met Steve Spencer, who became her husband of sixty years. While students at Swarthmore, they became Quakers. Their lives became one counterpoint-- a couple who made a difference through serving the underserved.

Joan earned a Master of Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, specializing in Remedial Reading and English as a Second Language. She taught Native Americans, immigrants, prisoners, and students of all ages while Steve’s career in medicine paralleled hers. Joan and Steve were part of a group in Flagstaff meeting that founded Intermountain Yearly Meeting, which was called Family Camp in the beginning.

They spent six months with Dr. Albert Schweitzer at his hospital in Lambarene in the African country of Gabon in l960 and Steve was on the medical faculty at University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from l974-79. Returning to Arizona, Joan worked as a caseworker for U.S. Congressman Morris Udall. Steve founded the C.U.P program, Commitment to Underserved People, a special program for medical students at the University of Arizona.

Her sister-in-law, Jane Price, said of Joan that she raised four kids and did it “with grace and ease and humor. Joan was the grounded person for everyone in the family. She walked the walk of world change wherever she was.” Their daughter Peggy recalls that her parents instilled in her and her sisters Beth, Sally, and Becky, “ . . . that there is the light of God in everyone. They both truly believed and lived that value.”

Joan and Steve joined Santa Fe Monthly Meeting after moving to New Mexico, and continued their lives of engagement. They were founding members of New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty. The death penalty was subsequently repealed in New Mexico in 2009. Those of us who knew Joan Spencer from Santa Fe Monthly Meeting remember her warm smile, her passion for justice, and her genuine affection for all people.

Joan was a loving mother of four daughters, Beth (Jerry), Peggy (Paul), Sally, and Becky (Marty) and seven grandchildren (Greg, Katie, Serena, Derek Jaden, Erika, Travis). She was preceded in death by her parents, Harry and Betty Price, her brother Doug Price, and her husband Steve Spencer, who died on July 11, 2015.