Date of birth: October 20 1942
Date of death: January 26 2019
Jeanette Spencer, Portland writer and photographer, died on January 26, 2019, of liver cancer.She was well known in many Portland communities since the 1970s.
Jeanette was born on October 20, 1942, in San Francisco to Lorena Washington Spencer and Andy Ernest Spencer.Andy was a chef in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He shared his knowledge of the world and his cooking skills with Jeanette, who was an excellent cook even after her illness made this difficult. Many will remember the superb strawberry shortcake she brought to International Women’s Day celebrations.
International Women’s Day was one of the many venues where Jeanette read her poetry, which was also published in the We’Moon datebook over many years.Besides poetry, her writing included a novel, Everything is Copacetic, and a play, Beds in Bedlam, which was produced at Portland State University. Both of these were based on her experiences with mental hospitals in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, which left her with a strong dislike of institutions and a firm commitment to individual freedom. Jeanette’s photography focused largely on the natural world.Several of her poems were printed with her photographs as background.
She was one of the founding vendors of the Portland Saturday Market when it was just a few booths set up in the parking lot of Oregon Leather and Norcrest China in what is now Old Town Portland. Jeanette worked with Bill Naito and others to establish a structure and permanent site for the Market, where she sold her patented Oregon Critters, a rabbit fur covered "pet rock” with eyes and a story about each one. Around this time Jeanette lived at WHO Farm in Estacada, an early women’s land collective that taught rural living skills for women and raised rabbits, goats, an organic garden and blue corn popcorn. WHO Farm evolved into We’Moon Land, a community that still exists, thanks in part to Jeanette and women like her, who have cared for the land and community over 45 years. Jeanette was busy writing a book about the founding of Saturday Market until shortly before her death.
Jeanette’s cheerfulness, courage, and irrepressible energy touched many people’s lives, as she made friends in many different social circles. Her flamboyance was legendary—from the days she drove a white ’57 Thunderbird convertible to her later notoriety as “Running Mouth” (a name she gave herself). She was an active member of the Portland Women of Color Potluck. She was a perpetual student, always game to learn something new, especially in creative writing courses at Portland State University where she attended for years. Jeanette was a survivor in the truest sense of the word and she will remain a beloved icon of our community.
Jeanette is survived by her adopted daughter, whom she co-parented with Helle Totsas, Masika Swain-Weir and husband Larry Weir of Los Angeles, California; brothers Eddie of Portland, Oregon; Guy of Oceanside, California; and Joe of Eight Mile, Alabama. Her parents and one brother, Andy, predeceased her.
Jeanette's passing is also deeply mourned by close friends including her book editor, Eartha Forest, housemates Linda Scarpelli and Laurinda McKinlay, and Sarah McKinlay-Scott, Deborah Cohen, Jovita Najera and sons, Andre and Sean, Charlene Zaharakis, Kathleen Sadaat, Ginny Morton, Pam Monette, Paul Maresh and Pam Allee, Rabbit (Chris Sondie), Musawa, Eagle, Kristan and many others who visited her recently. Friends especially want to thank her caregivers, Linda, Emily, Suzanne, Sky the Infinite, Leah (Buddha/Sprout) and Carol, for their dedication to Jeanette’s wishes for care, and the Housecall Providers palliative and hospice teams for their presence and assistance.
A memorial gathering will be held on Sunday, March 17, from 2:30 to 4:30 PM at the Subud Center, 3185 NE Regents Dr, Portland, OR 97212. All who knew her and might want to share memories of Jeanette are invited to attend. Memorial gifts will be dedicated to the completion of her book project. Checks payable to We’Mooniversity may be sent to: P.O. Box 1636, Estacada, OR 97023.
11 tribute candles have been lit
Candle lit by sandra Ford Jeanette was absolutely a unique person. I and my children will remember her remarkable kindness and patience with them.
Candle lit by Sean M Kelleher There are so many things I will miss about you, Jeanette. I will remember them all, especially your laughter and smile.
Candle lit by Pam Monette Jeanette was always positive and up for a laugh. She was often a light in my day.
Candle lit by Lizzy Tanzer I am so happy to have had an opportunity to know Jeanette. Even though I only knew her a few years, she made an indelible impact on my life that I will always be grateful for. Fly free my funny little friend.
Candle lit by Kathleen Saadat What a wonderful thing to know the amazing Jeannette Spencer. I will miss her.
Candle lit by Jovita Najera and Sons My true friend who gave me much joy over the years Portland will never be the same without you I will forever miss you.
Candle lit by Staff at Crown Memorial Center Our sincere condolences.
Candle lit by Alma Goddard Resting in Love, my truly unique inspiring brilliant loveable friend, Jeanette Spencer
Candle lit by DeNice Watkins Paschal For a woman who gave us kids fun, made us feel loved kept us safe. Then again after I met up with her after I was grown. I Live and remember you for that.
Candle lit by Musawa and Eagle There is no one like you in the world, Jeanette—you are greatly missed! We light a candle to your irrepressible courage, your non-stop creativity, and your rebellious good humor, even in the face of incredible adversity
Candle lit by Jon P Anderson It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to work with Jeanette. My memory of that I'll carry with me forever.