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Rev. Arthur L. Spafford

*Updated July 8, 2020 to include Memorial Service Information:

Saturday, August 22, from 10 am to 1pm a time of greeting and remembering will be held outside at the upper level of Northville First United Methodist Church. You may greet the family from your car or park and greet them and walk “The Path,” for a time of prayerful meditation. Every 20-30 minutes, we will offer a formal moment of sharing and remembering. All COVID 19 procedures will be observed.

 

After 94 years of enjoying family, friends, golf, travel, and 65+ years in the ministry, our father, Arthur Lloyd Spafford, died due to complications of chronic kidney disease on July 2, 2020 at Arbor Hospice in Saline, Michigan, surrounded by his family. While we will miss him terribly, his life was enriched by all of the special occasions over which he presided – the marriages of his children and grandchildren, as well as baptisms of grandchildren and great grandchildren – and countless others from congregations he served over the years. He also led ten trips to the Holy Land, sometimes accompanied by family members. He was very proud of his collection of olive wood religious figurines created in Israel, and also donated a beautiful rendition of the Last Supper to the Northville United Methodist Church.

Dad was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 6, 1926, the son of Rev. A. LaVerne and Margie Spafford. His father’s churches in southern Michigan, and later in St. Johns, nurtured him in his early steps toward the ordained ministry. He graduated from Otterbein College in 1948 and from the United Theological Seminary in 1951 with a Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained in Grand Rapids at the uniting session of the Michigan Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which later merged with the Methodist conference to form the United Methodist Church.

During seminary, Dad served a church in Dayton, Ohio, as a student pastor. Following ordination he went on to serve several churches in Michigan located in Caro-Fairgrove, Grand Rapids, Vicksburg, Sebewaing, Dearborn, Ferndale, Farmington and Northville. He first retired from Farmington and then served as a part-time assistant pastor in Northville. In addition, throughout his ministry Dad served on various administrative boards and committees for the conference. In January of 2015, he was awarded the Conference Cane, which is held by the oldest ordained clergy person with at least 35 active years of service in the Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Dad met Frieda Johnson at summer church camp in Lake Odessa, Michigan during his high school years, where it took some persuading for her to consider him her boyfriend. They were married in August of 1948 just prior to him beginning seminary. Along with serving as a very involved minister’s wife throughout their long marriage until her death in 2005, she was a remarkable church leader and professional in her own right. Dad remarried at age 89 after reconnecting with Lois Sommer at their 65th Otterbein College reunion. They shared several happy years together, eventually moving to the United Methodist Retirement Community in Chelsea in 2019.

Dad is survived by his three children, Barbara (married to Keith Powers) of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Robert (married to Barbara Kresge) of South Lyon, Michigan; and, Thomas of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and also his sister, Eleanor Williams of St. Johns, Michigan, along with her husband Howard and large extended family. Another sister, MaryLou Burch, preceded him in death but leaves an extended family as well. He was also dearly loved by his grandchildren and their families, including Lynn (Harder), her husband and three children; Christopher Powers and his partner; Elizabeth (Paradis), her husband and their two children; Sarah (Strickland), her husband, and their two children; and, Michael Spafford; and many nieces and nephews and their families. He is also survived by Femmi Walscheid van Dijk of Germany, who became part of the family after she spent a year as their exchange student in 1965, and with whom the family has shared many happy reunions through the years.

One of Dad’s great gifts was his voice – a deep and resonant bass often featured in his church choirs and as a soloist, and more recently with son Thom. They sang the sacred duet “Doubt No More” in honor of Dad’s 90th birthday at the Northville Church during Sunday services. This song has special significance for the family in that Dad’s parents often sang that duet together in the past. Dad also enjoyed singing with his Rotary friends and was a member of a special barbershop quartet with good friends in Vicksburg. He also served as President of four different Rotary clubs over nearly 40 years in this service organization.

On the occasion of his retirement in 1991, close friend Rev. Al Bamsey wrote a wonderful tribute to Dad highlighting aspects of his character that he admired: steadiness, calmness, a man of principle, great companion, humility, and one who is never loath to tell a story! He wrote, “Art Spafford is a credit to his profession and a solid disciple. He has brought joy to many, lifted up many a lagging spirit, and provided the right word here and there so that grace might flow in the churches he’s served…he has contributed quietly yet mightily to the reservoir of goodness needed for this planet to make its way into God’s loving orbit.”

His family just loved him deeply as a very kind human being, but also one with a quick aside or pun as well as a corny joke. As Dad loved to say lately when we’d end a phone conversation, “Tell everyone I know hello, but don’t tell them where I am!” We know where you are now, Dad.

In lieu of flowers, we would appreciate donations to the United Methodist Retirement Communities Foundation, which offers financial support to retirees living in UMRC facilities as well as their front line workers during these stressful times. The address is UMRC Foundation, 805 West Middle Street, Chelsea, Michigan 48118 and their website can be found at: https://umrc.com/umrc-foundation/

Arrangements are being made for a memorial celebration of Dad’s life later this summer. More details will be available shortly.