Charles Lambert Spencer of Indianapolis passed away on Thursday, June 8, 2023, two days after his 86th birthday, of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his beloved wife Gabrielle Spencer-Bersier, children Philip and Teresa Spencer, son-in-law Mark Szybist, grandson Arlo Szybist, sisters JoAnne Wilson and Vicki Day, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He is preceded in death by his parents, Floyd and Anne (née Seidel) Spencer, first spouse Elizabeth (née Dierks) Spencer, cousin Raymond Spencer Jr., and dearest friends Wigand Lange and Roy Chapin.
Charles, known to many of his friends and family as Chuck or Charlie, was a gentle spirit, a keenly intelligent and deeply humane man, with an inquisitive mind and a kindly heart. His many curiosities and his interest in helping and understanding people led him to lifelong studies, both formal and informal. He was born in Perry, Iowa on June 6, 1937. In his adolescence, he played the organ for the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, an early gift for music that later expanded to the piano and accordion. Awarded a scholarship by Immanuel Lutheran parish, Charles left home at fourteen to undertake pre-seminary studies at Concordia College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he graduated from high school and junior college. In 1959, he earned a B.A. in psychology at Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He then completed his first year of pre-medical studies at the State University of Iowa in Iowa City before being drafted into the Army in 1960.
During his service, he studied Czech language at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and was stationed in Bavaria, West Germany, where he worked as an interpreter in Army Intelligence. There, he gained an abiding love of Bavarian beer and many dear friends before his honorable discharge in 1963. He then earned an M.A.T. in Russian and Soviet area studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in 1966 and an M.A. in German language and literature at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin in 1971, continuing on to complete Ph.D. coursework in 1974. At the University of Wisconsin, Charles met his wife, Gabrielle Spencer-Bersier. They were married on June 13, 1981 in Gabrielle’s home country of Switzerland, in a celebration adorned with both Swiss and American flags.
Charles worked much of his life as a teacher, instructing countless students who cherished his mentorship at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the University of Wisconsin, and Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis. In the last two decades of his career, he worked in publishing as a proofreader, editor, and translator at Shepard Poorman Communications and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Throughout his career, he maintained a freelance translation business, translating the writing of German scholars, essayists, and memoirists with sensitivity and intelligence. Over the course of his life, Charles learned to speak fluent German and Russian and to read Czech, Latin, and Greek. He was most acrobatic with English, always regaling his friends and family with his sometimes whimsical, sometimes wise and touching storytelling.
Charles was deeply community oriented. In the last decades of his life, he served on the Twin Creeks Homeowners’ Association Board of Directors in Indianapolis, where his care for the neighborhood and its residents created strong bonds and lasting impacts. Charles’s proudest accomplishment and greatest joy was fatherhood to his two children. Philip and Teresa owe him so much of who they are. Along with all who loved him and were blessed to have known him, they will miss him profoundly.
The disease that affected Charles since his 80th birthday comes with many losses. The Spencer family has learned that with the grief of cognitive decline also comes the opportunity for emotional growth and deepening of family bonds. They are thankful to Charles’s devoted caregivers: Nathaniel and Clara Samba, his daily companion Kirk Ambs, and AseraCare Home Hospice’s knowledgeable and compassionate professionals.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Charles’s name to Trinity Episcopal Church of Indianapolis, which runs a support group for caregivers: https://onrealm.org/trinitychurchindy/-/form/give/now
The Spencers will receive family and friends on Friday, June 16, at 10 a.m. with the memorial service following at 11 a.m. at Flanner Buchanan Washington Park North located at 2706 Kessler Blvd W Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46228.
Friday, June 16, 2023
10:00 - 11:00am (Eastern time)
Friday, June 16, 2023
11:00 - 11:00am (Eastern time)