July 10, 1948 ~ November 19, 2008
RANDY WRIGHT SPENCER
Randy Wright Spencer passed away suddenly in the early morning hours of November 19, 2008 at home. Born in Long Beach, CA on July 10, 1948, he spent his very early childhood in North Redondo Beach, then moved to Hermosa Beach and was raised on Myrtle Avenue by his mother, Coralie Ebey and his step-father, Lou Ebey. He attended North Elementary and Pier Avenue Middle School, then graduated from Mira Costa High School in 1966. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base and was then accepted as part of the Combat Air Crew on Reconnaissance Flights during the Vietnam War, flying on a Constellation aircraft stationed in Korat, Thailand. He served there for approximately 13 months and achieved 104 missions. He was then transferred to Vandenberg Air Force base where he completed his duty and received an Honorable Discharge. This past August, he attended an aircrew reunion and special plaque dedication ceremony for the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Ohio. He was able to hook up with two of his best flight buddies from that old era, tour the planes they had flown and he had a wonderful time.
Using his V.A. Benefits, Randy started his college education. He received his A.A. from El Camino College and then transferred to Cal State Dominguez Hills where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, his California State Teaching Credential and finally qualified as Lifetime, focusing on Special Education with students who had learning disabilities and behavior problems, and then earned his Resource Credential. He began his teaching career at Escalon, a private school in Altadena, CA and after a year was contacted by Peggy Tremaine at South High School and was offered a position as a Special Education teacher. He remained there for approximately thirteen years and then was transferred to West High School where he taught until his sudden death.
After decades of teaching he decided to go back to school himself and earned his Masters in Teaching/Education from the University of the Grand Canyon. He achieved this all the while he was working and proudly graduated having sustained a 4.0 grade average. With his thirty years of experience teaching Special Ed, Randy became a mentor and was always available to offer advice to the younger teachers. From time-to-time he was still in touch with his former students who looked up to him and thanked him for helping them get through the difficult years of high school. Randy wanted the best for his students so that they would be prepared to go out into the world and survive. Randy's philosophy was to "lay down the rules" with his new students and as they developed, he would give them some breathing room. It was a very successful strategy as many students returned to thank him for his support and the discipline that helped them grow up to be responsible adults.
As a child he loved the beach and spent his childhood swimming, bellyboarding, surfing and helping his family, the Bergstroms, run The Riviera, the old hamburger stand on 22nd Street in Hermosa Beach. He fondly remembered the old time surfers, many of whom became legends. He even ventured to build his own board in his garage and was so proud of his achievement. He was also part of the junior lifeguard program in Hermosa. He enjoyed swimming and water polo in high school and was like a fish in the water. He also liked to build scale-model airplane designs, many of which used to be on display at Paul Freiler's Historical Model Shop in Torrance and were photographed for the covers of Revel model boxes. In time, Randy also took up Radio-control Glider flying and was a member of SULA for many years. He ultimately earned a place on the United States F3B Soaring Team, first as Team Captain in 1991 in the Netherlands and thereafter as a competitor in 1993 in Israel, 1995 in Romania and 1997 in Turkey.
Randy took up flying lessons and earned his pilot's license at Torrance Airport under the direction of Mickey, a life-long pilot, instructor and friend. Over the years he was able to advance his flying skills and was "checked out" in a T-6, Cessna, Citabria, Cherokee 6 and ultimately the Stearman Bi-Plane, which he was fortunate enough to become its caregiver while the owner, Fred Brunig, was living in Oregon. Randy made many friends at the Torrance Airport which became his second home. He became part of the brotherhood, always willing to help others. Randy always said that flying was like going to church. It was a very spiritual experience and one that helped sustain him for such a very long time.
Many weekends, you could hear and see him flying over his home and making a big smoke ring in the sky. It was quite a sight. He also participated in the annual Memorial Day fly-by at Green Hills Memorial Park and the Fourth of July Malaga Cove Gathering. His neighborhood would have a traditional Fourth of July Block party and it was always a sure thing that he would do a fly-by right over the middle of the block with smoke streaming in celebration.
Randy was a big man in size and his heart was even bigger. He was so generous with his time and was always willing to help others in any kind of favor and he so enjoyed giving rides to others. He made it such a very special event. The last weekend of his life, he gave a bi-plane ride to a man as a birthday present from his wife.
Randy always believed in doing the right thing, no matter how difficult it might be. There are so many people to thank for their friendships at Torrance Airport, but in particular George Sedillo, Harry Haggard, Dave Nelson, Jean Breedlove, Frank Mauro, Dr. Dick Smith, Buzz, Dr. Tony Giorgio, Uncle Don, Martin and Joan Smith and Dave and Monica Cleveland, Nancy Clinton and Mickey. In addition, a very special thank you to Gordon Matthews, as mentor and father-figure who encouraged Randy to pursue his higher flying skills.
Randy is survived by his loving wife of 31 ½ years, Maxine (Max) Riganti Spencer of Redondo Beach, his loving and loyal dogs, Lucy and Roscoe Brown, his brother Brant Bergstrom Spencer and sister-in-law Diane Talley Spencer of Washington, his sister Amanda Ebey and his sister-in-law Marsha Lieberman of San Francisco, brother-in-law Fred Riganti and his wife June of Torrance, sister-in-law Julie Riganti Bigelow of Redondo Beach, nieces Brandi Reeves and Amber Spencer and grandniece Averi Reeves and grandnephew Aiden Reeves of Washington, his uncle and aunt Robert and Kathy Bergstrom of Hermosa Beach, and numerous cousins. He is also survived by his godmother Joan McAllister of New York and her extended family. He is predeceased by his father, Ralph W. Spencer, his mother, Coralie C. Ebey, his step-father, Louis Ebey and his grandmother, Louise Bergstrom.
Donations can be made in Randy's memory to the SPCALA or the Randy Spencer Scholarship Fund at West High, Torrance.
A gathering of family and friends will be held Monday, November 24, from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Rice Mortuary, 5310 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance with Memorial Services beginning at 7:00 PM in the Mortuary Chapel. A reception in Rice's Lighthouse Reception Room will follow.
Sign the Guestbook, Light a Candle