Former POW dies

Published 11:49 pm Friday, February 8, 2013

A community servant, architect and former prisoner of war died Friday morning at his home in Eclipse, surrounded by his family.

Chuckatuck native Frank A. Spady Jr., 94, first learned about architecture in Stalag Luft No. 1 in 1945 from a fellow prisoner of war, who was passing the time by teaching his craft to fellow prisoners, who were passing the time learning it while they were not eating out of Red Cross food packages (when they were distributed), playing cards by shoestring candlelight or outwitting their German captors.

“He was one of millions of the greatest generation,” said Thomas Hazelwood, Spady’s son-in-law and Suffolk’s commissioner of the revenue. “Together, they bought and paid for the freedoms we so enjoy and take too often for granted. But as the rest of them did, he never said much about it.”

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In 1992, at the insistence of his children, Spady began to write down his recollections of his military experience. The project resulted in 126 pages of typed memories, from leaving Suffolk on a bus in July 1942 to receiving a Prisoner of War Medal in August 1988.

Spady was captured after Combat Mission No. 25 on Sunday, Nov. 26, 1944, when a fire started near the oxygen tanks on his plane during an air battle with the Germans. Spady and his comrades parachuted from the plane, and he landed among a little group of houses, where German soldiers quickly found him and took him prisoner.

Spady was held in various locations until April 30, 1945, when the Germans evacuated the camp.

“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.

When he returned home, Spady married and then studied architecture. After spending some time in Georgia, he moved his family back to Virginia in 1958. He opened his own practice in Chuckatuck in 1959 and became a businessman of nearly four decades.

“I think Suffolk has lost a very fine man,” said Tom Underwood, a former mayor and city manager. “He was a man of his word.”

Spady contributed many buildings to Suffolk that are still in use today. Hazelwood said he did the architecture for the Human Resources building, formerly the Social Services building, at 440 Market St. He also designed the addition on the eastern side of the current city hall and did the drawings for John F. Kennedy High School, which now is a middle school by the same name.

Underwood said Spady designed the fire stations in Holland and Whaleyville and added on to the Market Street fire station.

“I always felt very comfortable with him,” Underwood said. “You knew without question whoever got the contract would have to do what they said, because Frank did the drawings.”

Hazelwood said Spady “had a great love for his family” and was active in his community through the Suffolk Rotary Club and the Chuckatuck Ruritan Club. He also formerly served on the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Spady is survived by his wife of 66 years, Katherine, five children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A funeral will be held Monday, with a visitation Sunday. See the full obituary here.

Editor’s note: Due to a source error, an original version of this story incorrectly stated the schools for which Mr. Spady did the drawings. It is now correct.