Obituary of Walter Laverne Spence
January 1, 1945 - November 23, 2023
It is with great sadness that we announce after a short battle with COVID and pneumonia, the passing of Walter Laverne Spence (“Vern”), beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, and grandfather, at the age of 78 in Calgary, AB. Born in Medicine Hat, AB, on January 1, 1945, Vern was passionate about his family and friends, his career, and his love for sports.
Along with his family, Vern moved to Calgary during elementary school, where he would meet some of his lifelong friends. At the early age of 15, Vern began working with Canada Safeway Limited (“Safeway”). Vern graduated from Western Washington State College in 1970, earning his Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Some of Vern’s most cherished memories during his time in Washington were his trips up to Vancouver to see his brother Don. The two bonded over salmon fishing, which Vern thoroughly enjoyed. The stories Vern shared from these trips were hilarious, and if you knew Don, you would not expect anything less.
Upon returning to Calgary in 1970, Vern was selected by CESO (the Canadian Executive Service Organization) and Safeway to establish the Standoff Supermarket on the Kainai Nation. Here, Vern spent two years assisting with the inaugural store which he looked back on with profound gratitude; he was proud of the friendships and work relationships forged during this time. Upon completion of the project, the Kainai Nation held a farewell ceremony in his honor where they presented Vern with a horse, saddle, and blanket as tokens of their appreciation.
Vern would meet his eventual wife, Bernadette "Bernie" Dunlop at Safeway and after many years of being together, the two married on May 10, 2008, at Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Bernie brought two children into their relationship, Tammy, and Chad, who Vern loved and raised as his own. Vern and Bernie would go on to enjoy 40-years together, with some of their most memorable times spent traveling and spending time with friends and family. A favorite destination of theirs was Tofino, British Columbia, where they would often travel to during the fall months. Their mornings would be spent sipping Baileys and coffee from atop Pettinger Point at the Pacific Sands Resort watching the storms roll in, while their evenings would include a glass of wine and a breathtaking sunset.
Upon retiring from Safeway in 1999, Vern’s family expected a traditional retirement; however, they should have known better, and that Vern’s plan was to get back to various other projects at the family home. This work expanded beyond the family home to assisting his long-time neighbors and friends with their decks, fences, or garages. Vern would go on to earn the nickname “Mr. Scissorhands” as a result of his craftsmanship and unique arborist skills that went into each tree or hedge, he manicured. Vern woke up every day with a purpose and a checklist, and that was never to stop.
Throughout his life, Vern put family first, and was always proud of his loved ones and their accomplishments. No matter what was going on in his life, Vern would be front row to see his family do what they love and achieve their goals. This was most evident through his love for Bernie, who he supported endlessly in her endeavors to pursue further education and an inspiring career in social work. Vern’s love and admiration for Bernie was well known and admired by friends and family, including their daughter Tammy and son in law Mike, who he loved dearly and shared many lasting memories with. Tammy and Mike would go on to bless Vern with four grandsons, Cooper, Bennett, Max, and Cody, who would refer to him as “Papa”. Papa’s relationship with his grandsons was special. Papa would be found in a hockey arena, baseball field, or in the family’s backyard, sharing his passion for sports or providing invaluable life lessons. Vern was able to help each of his boys through their challenges in life, and wanted to not only be Papa to them, but a best friend. His grandsons remember him most for his patience, compassion, and discipline, and have him to thank for many of their skills today.
Vern was an enthusiastic sports fan and enjoyed ice hockey, football, golf, and baseball. A proud fan of the Montreal Canadiens, those close to Vern knew exactly where he would be on a Saturday night - cheering on his Habs. His time at university allowed Vern to be close to the game of football, later sharing this passion with Chad. Vern’s love for the game of golf grew over time, with his early days spent touring courses with close friends and family, and later days spent teaching the game to his grandsons. Vern later became a dedicated fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, and alongside Bernie, went on to enjoy watching several games including those in Seattle, Washington, and Tampa Bay, Florida, both of which were lifetime highlights for Vern.
Along with his loving wife Bernie, Vern is survived by his daughter Tammy (Mike); grandsons, Cooper, Bennett, Max, and Cody; brother Lynn (Wally); sister Margaret (Kevin); brother-in-law Don (Karen) and Darryl; sisters-in-law Eve (Dexter), Shirley (Bruce), Jeannie (Gord) plus numerous nieces, nephews, and friends. Vern was predeceased by his father Walter, mother Violet, brothers, Mickey, and Donald; sister Wendy; son Chad; and sister-in-law Maureen.
Memorial Services will be held at McInnis & Holloway (Fish Creek, 14441 Bannister Road SE, Calgary, AB) on Friday, December 1, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. Reception to follow in the Hospitality Centre at the Funeral Home. Family and friends who are unable to attend in person are invited to join Walter’s service streamed live (see below) on the day of the service. For those who are unable to view live, a recording of the service will be posted. Condolences, memories, and photos may be shared and viewed with Walter’s family here.
In living memory of Walter Spence, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Fish Creek, 14441 Bannister Road SE, Calgary, Ab t2x 3j3, Telephone: 403-256-9575.
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