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Our Family’s 20th Century History in Biographies .. 16

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Norman Samuel Spatz (Uncle Norman) July 19, 1899 - March 16, 1993, age 93
Buried at Zion Blue Mountain, Strausstown

Uncle Norman was born in Reading at 139 S. 6th St. and lived in Reading as a child, graduating from Reading High School (then called the High School for Boys) in 1917. His only sibling, Edgar, died as a baby. He was raised Reformed, and was confirmed on April 2, 1915 at St. Mark’s Reformed, Reading. His father (Sam Spatz 1867?—3/7/1962) had graduated from Kutztown Normal School, taught for a while, and was a letter carrier, but wanted to return to the family farm when Uncle Norman was finished with high school. Sam was a son (probably the youngest) of Jared Spatz and Maria Becker; there is a photo album of pictures taken at the farm in the family file.

Uncle Norman had too many allergies and too much ambition to stay on the farm, although he had happy memories of farm life. (For instance: the cows were named in alphabetical order—years later they could still name them!) He was devoted to his parents and grandmother; after his mother Debbie (4/16/1870-1/9/1954) died, his father lived with them until he died at 93? in 1962. One gathers Sam was a difficult person to take care of.

High School sounds like a challenge: one note says that, “Parents should insist upon not less than 2 hours of home study” a day. After high school, Sam Spatz would not pay for any further education for Uncle Norman, so eventually Aunt Carrie and Uncle Norman lived in West Lawn with Grandma and Grandpa Unger in 1921 while he attended Schuylkill Seminary (Reading’s Junior College, which later became Albright) and took a prepatory course to enter Lehigh University. On the basis of his certificates from Schuylkill and Reading High School he was accepted to Lehigh in 1923. In an ID he was described as being 5’8’’ with gray eyes and brown hair. He didn’t fight in WWI, but was in ROTC at Lehigh, ending as a captain in 1926. In the Lehigh yearbook for his senior year they list his nickname as “Pops” and kid him about being a married man and about his motorcycle, the “roaring hyena.” At Lehigh he was a member of the Electrical Engineering Society, the Rifle Team, and Eta Kappa Nu, and won Freshman and Sophomore honors. He graduated from Lehigh in 1927 with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Aunt Carrie and Uncle Norman had plenty of stories about how poor they were during this time. Two favorite stories were that he walked further then necessary to save the penny it cost to cross the bridge and that they used the church clock across the street because they didn’t have a clock (so what happened to the clock wedding gift?).

After graduation he got a job with Public Service Electric and Gas in Newark, NJ, where he started as a cadet engineer in July of 1927. In 1930 he was promoted to foreman electrician at the Essex plant; in 1939 to engineer at the General Office; in 1944 to Chief Electrician at Essex; in 1947 to Chief Electrician at Perth Amboy; in 1949 to Senior Engineer at the General Office; in 1957 to Systems Operator. In his final position he was responsible for estimating the electricity needs of that part of New Jersey, which included studying the weather, a long time interest of his (if it was hot, people would use more air conditioning, electric needs would rise, etc.). He had to see that the proper amount of electric current was generated at the right times (morning, noon) to take care of the people’s needs. He had to make daily forecasts of energy use, as well as long term projections. He retired February 15, 1966, after 38 years, and was given a party and a slide projector by the company; the program for the party includes a funny song written about his love for ice cream. During his working life he got up every day at 4:30 am to catch the 6:00 bus to Newark. He was a life member of IEEE (International Institute of Electric and Electrical Engineers).

After retirement he often said he couldn’t figure out how he had had time to work, he had so many interests. He helped neighbors with various building projects and liked to observe building construction. He and Aunt Carrie enjoyed giving slide shows to various organizations (including the family!) He belonged to the Womelsdorf, PA Masonic lodge, but was not an active lodge member.

He was a man of many interests: weather, photography, painting. He taught star lore for many years at the Trailside Museum of the Union County Park Commission. He loved Wheaties, ice cream and candy. He loved to read Westerns. He was a lifelong practical joker. One of his achievements was the design of their beautiful home at 153 Indian Run Parkway in Union, NJ in 1941; they lived there until they moved to an apartment at Luther Crest retirement home in Allentown, PA in 1985.

He liked puzzles—doing them (like Jumbles) and carving wooden ones. He was an amateur inventor, coming up with a rain detector that would sound an alarm so you would know to close the window. Many hours were spent trying to figure out how to keep the squirrels away from the bird feeders, (Mary Alice says he succeeded with a feeder hung on a wire between two other wires!)

Aunt Carrie and Uncle Norman organized the first family vacations at Squam Lake in 1959 and 1960—Uncle Norman had a few weeks of panic in June, 1959, when Public Service went on strike and he thought he would not be able to go along—fortunately, they settled in time.

He is remembered for his good sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself. At Squam Lake in 1959 his birthday was celebrated around a “Have Gun Will Travel” theme; he was made a member of SPOTVHOADS (Society for the Preservation of TV Horse Operas And Detective Stories, invented by Dick), and was given a lot of funny presents, including a tiny cap gun in a holster by Russ. When it was over, Carrie said, “Honey! That was the best birthday party you ever had.” “Yes,” he said, “or the best anybody else ever had.”

He really enjoyed being with the family, especially since he had no family after the death of his parents. He called the Rowley girls by numbers instead of their names. He entertained all of us by using his bolo ties as a telephone.

He died at 93 after a short stay in the hospital; his home after Aunt Carrie’s death was the health center of Luther Crest retirement community. A victim of Alzheimer’s, he had many years of confusion and distress, although his end was peaceful.

Linked to  Alison D. (Berger) Boor
Norman Samuel Spatz 

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