Ann W. Spaeth

by Walter Fox

Ann Ward Spaeth, 78, of Chestnut Hill, one of the founders and first president of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and a longtime community activist and volunteer, died Jan. 11 of cancer at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Mrs. Spaeth’s four-plus decades of community involvement began with a letter to the Chestnut Hill Local. Publication of the letter resulted in the formation of the Committee for the Preservation of Historic Buildings in Chestnut Hill, a group whose efforts saved the VFW Building at 8217 Germantown Ave. from destruction.

She continued her preservation advocacy, becoming a founder of the historical society and its first president.

For her efforts in historic preservation and for her long service in a variety of positions with the Chestnut Hill Community Association, including its Bylaws Committee, she was given the CHCA’s Chestnut Hill Award in 2009.

Mrs. Spaeth also was one of the founders of the Chestnut Hill Residents Association.

Raised in Pontiac, Mich., she attended Brookside and Kingswood Schools in Bloomfield Hills and graduated from Smith College.

After her marriage to George L. Spaeth, who was then a medical student in Boston, the couple lived in a home on the beach in Clifton, near Marblehead, Mass. They moved to Chestnut Hill in 1960 where they raised three children.

Gentle and opposed to violence in every form, she was courageously outspoken and was arrested twice for her insistence on supporting those whom she believed were being treated unjustly.

Shirley Hanson, membership chairman of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, who had been active in the 1966 campaign to save the VFW Building, said Mrs. Spaeth played a critical role in that effort and was instrumental in raising $4,000 in 48 hours to halt demolition.

“She was 1,000 percent committed and was single-minded in getting the result she felt was important,” Hanson said.

Janine Dwyer, of Chestnut Hill, who had worked with Mrs. Spaeth in the community association, said she “always leaned to what was best for people and the environment rather than the corporate nature of things.”

“She always did it quietly and continuously, and she got results,” Dwyer said. ”She once had a vigil for a tree, and the tree is still standing.”

Ron Recko, a former president of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, said that of all Mrs. Spaeth’s qualities “her passion for the community was unparalleled.”

“In any issue relating to the quality of life in the community, you could always count on Ann to support the residents,” he said.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Spaeth is survived by sons George and Eric; a daughter, Kristin Lea Browley; three grandchildren, and three step-grandchildren.

A memorial gathering was held Jan. 20 at the Germantown Friends Meeting. Memorial donations may be made to the Visiting Nurse Association of America, 900 19th Street, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006.