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Spady’s contributions were innumerable

Published 9:04pm Monday, February 11, 2013

Chuckatuck native Frank A. Spady Jr. had a long and illustrious career as an architect in Suffolk. Through the years, he left his mark — literally — on many of the area buildings people have come to know and love. Others, such as the Human Services Building at 440 Market Street and John F. Kennedy Middle School, became important to the city in earlier incarnations and have remained focal points of their respective communities throughout their long lives.

But there were other reasons Mr. Spady, who died last week at the age of 94, will be remembered for years to come in Suffolk.

He and his wife, Katherine, for instance, did something that’s increasingly rare in this world: They remained married to each other for 66 years, producing five children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The couple’s obvious love for each other found an extension in Mr. Spady’s great love for his extended family and then in the love for the city that he served through the Suffolk Rotary Club and the Chuckatuck Ruritan Club.

Mr. Spady’s mark on Suffolk, however, is even more distinctive because of the direct service he did on behalf of the city, where he also had served as a member of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and as a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

But for many, Mr. Spady’s greatest contributions were as a member of the U.S. Armed forces. Two years after he left Suffolk on a bus in 1942, he was captured after parachuting into a German city after his airplane caught fire during an air battle with the Germans in November 1944. He then spent the next five months as a prisoner of war.

“Many of us agreed that God must have had a purpose for sparing us as long as He had, and we prayed that His purpose would hold out to the end of the war,” Spady wrote in his autobiography in 1992.

Nobody can say what God’s purpose was in saving Mr. Spady and the others who were held in his German POW camp. What’s clear, though, is the grace that spared his life during that terrible time in history also gave Mr. Spady the opportunity to help shape the history of his own city. Suffolk is a better place for his having lived and worked here.

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  • Mildred

    Time to cut off Peanutbred. Something is fueling his foolish and badly placed and timed attacks on two (not one) of Suffolk’s past architects and this suddenly discovered and proclaimed obsession with how “bad” some of our buildings preoccupy his judgment and unexplained need to thrash out needlessly.

    Suggest Removal

    • Peanutbred

      Just who, exactly, are you to decide that I should be cut off and for what VALID reason, beyond your personal pique? I have done nothing more than to raise a timely and reasonable point about Suffolk architecture, especially as the City of Suffolk embarks upon the construction of a new city hall and the planning of a new library, both of which will be “monumental” and around for years to come.

      Given the fairly recently and oddly curious splatting of the police headquarters upon the landscape, the time for such concerns actually remains long overdue, particularly in view of an apparent effort to laud Frank Spady’s monstrous contribution to it some 35, or so, years ago.

      For those who CHOOSE to find maliciousness in my comments, including the appropriately avatarred thought police, I have to say that is your problem. I knew Frank Spady, as well as DuPre Breeden, during my lifetime, and I have not written anything here I had not already told either of them. At least, they could respectfully agree to disagree, and Mr. Spady said at one time that the city ultimately got what it wanted, admitting that the former social services building was not a thing for which to be proud.

      Suggest Removal

  • Mildred

    Shame on you Peanutbred. While anyone could understand your jealousy of those more respected than you, your vicious comments degrade you more than they do your target.

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    • Peanutbred

      Calling the former Department of Social Services building on Market Street an abomination is hardly “vicious”, as it was widely panned when it was built, now mostly and mercifully obscured by vegetation. Ascribing me as cowardly and jealous for doing so is simply absurd, if not at all on point.

      What has been degraded – by the overindulgent and misplaced use of unnecessary ad hominem attacks upon me – is a useful examination of what passes for Suffolk architecture, for which no one here has managed ANY relevant response.

      That I raise the issue of the design of buildings in this city with the passing of Frank Spady is because this paper sought to enshrine his contributions therein. While many of his designs to residential properties were, in many ways exemplary, his commercial projects were abjectly abysmal and lacking in vitality, much of that owing to the blandness of his clients, which included the City of Suffolk and the Nansemond County School Board, both of which, in turn, lacked any imagination at the time.

      But, to simply blame his clients is to miss the mark quite a bit. Inspired architects, like other great artists, are not led, but lead. And, for some inexplicable reason, Frank Spady – like his professional predecessor, DuPre Breeden – was not terribly inspired when it came to his commercial clients. As a result, we are left with a legacy of mediocrity, an architectural criticism not intended to overshadow Mr. Spady’s more enduring contributions.

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  • Cat

    I also was unsuccessful in using “suggest removal” on the TWO tasteless comments here.

    It must be lonely being so bitter as this negative writer.

    Ironically, the only person I’ve ever known who would have forgiven this offensive writer was Frank Spady himself. He was much more tolerant than I of those whose main accomplishments in life consist of cowardly, vicious and negative attacks hidden behind a well deserved anonimity.

    It would help if the Suffolk News would require a sobriety test from people like this as well as guardian permission where it seems appropriate.

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    • Fred

      I agree that this negative writer is tasteless. However, there may be soom good from his comments since they add some validity to Darwin’s theories.

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    • Peanutbred

      No, what is ironic is that you yourself have posted “cowardly, vicious and negative attacks hidden behind a well deserved anonimity (sic).”

      Frank Spady would have been the first to admit that there was nothing remarkable about his body of work. I just have never known anyone who has “come to know and love” them, as this paper has proclaimed.

      Oddly enough, no one here has, as well.

      Suggest Removal

  • Peanutbred

    I cannot think of a greater abomination within the entire collection of Suffolk architectural “contributions” than the former Department of Social Services building, now a warehouse for other Suffolk agencies. But, then again, Suffolk has been generally saddled to have uninspired architects ply their pedestrian trade since the late George C. Moser, lit up the Suffolk landscape, albeit from Norfolk, in the late 1800s.

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    • catman2

      The “Suggest Removal” did not work. Tasteless

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      • Peanutbred

        That you might disagree with my assessment of Frank Spady’s architectural work does not render my life-long observation tasteless nor does it detract from Mr. Spady’s other, more endearing qualities. But, neither DuPre Breeden nor Mr. Spady, who collectively spent over fifty years designing mostly terribly bland commercial structures within the city should somehow be transformed into latter-day marvels for their dull and insipid effects upon the landscape, with which we all must still endure and will continue to do so for years to come.

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