Ethel Jean Spangler, a longtime resident of Overland Park, who balanced duties as homemaker with a career that led to leadership positions in the federal workforce, died Tuesday, December 7, 2021 at the age of 96.
Mrs. Spangler was born in Camden, AR, to Zelma Pearl McMurtrey Baldwin and Harry Samford Baldwin on June 14, 1925. The family moved to Little Rock in 1927, and Jean graduated from Little Rock High School in the class of 1943.
While working at the front desk of a Little Rock hotel, she met the love of her life, Pvt. George William Spangler Jr. George had been a college student at Pennsylvania State University and subsequently drafted into the army, where he was a member of the 66th Infantry Division which was transferred to Camp Robinson, outside of Little Rock. After a whirlwind courtship, they were married on Christmas Eve of 1943. The marriage lasted nearly seven decades, until his death in 2012.
While George was serving in Europe, she worked for the Federal Reserve Bank in Little Rock. After the war, the couple moved to Fayetteville, AR, where George studied architecture at the University of Arkansas and son Dale Palmer and daughter Mary Joe were born.
In 1953, the family moved to the Kansas City area, settling in Overland Park in 1954. Dale and Mary Joe grew up there. Both attended the University of Kansas, where Mary Joe received a bachelor’s degree in music in 1972, and Dale received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry in 1969 and a Ph.D. in 1978 in computational chemistry, followed by a two-year fellowship at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California.
As her husband pursued his architectural career, Jean found jobs making cards at Hallmark, filling orders at Wolferman’s Bakery, and served students in the cafeteria of Milburn Junior High School. Then, entering federal employment, she learned to key punch for the Internal Revenue Service but soon switched to checking tax returns. In 1963, she moved to Federal Crop Insurance, where she rose to the level of supervisor and was for a time the equal employment officer. She also was elected president of the local chapter of the National Federation of Federal Employees. At the union’s national convention in 1974 in Miami, she served as sergeant-at-arms and later was instrumental in negotiating the union’s collective bargaining contract. She retired from government service in 1984.
In retirement, she was the caretaker of three family members as they battled illnesses. She cared first for her father, later her brother, Jack Baldwin, and finally her husband.
Mrs. Spangler is survived by her daughter, Mary Joe (Mrs. W. Wayne Punshon) of Marple, PA; her son, Dale Spangler of Overland Park; four grandsons, Anthony Spangler of San Jose, CA, William Spangler of Bellevue, WA, Benjamin Loukota of King of Prussia, PA, and Matthew Loukota of Philadelphia, PA; and two great-grandchildren, Mary Kimberly Spangler and Theodore Loukota.
There will be a viewing at 9:30 am Tuesday, December 14, 2021 at Johnson County Funeral Chapel, 11200 Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park, KS, 66210. The funeral will follow at 10:00 am, conducted by Pastor Don Huitink of Crossroads Church. Interment will follow at 11:00am at Johnson County Memorial Gardens.