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Gryphon Gallery: Anne Spicer – “Service is what life is all about”

Gryphon Gallery
Anne Spicer, teacher at Norfolk House

Anne Spicer taught at GNS (Norfolk House School) from 1960-69.

From the time she left the comforts of privileged life in pre-war Germany, Anne immersed herself in providing for the needs of others. In England she cared for WWII refugees fleeing Nazi oppression; in Newfoundland and Labrador she worked alongside her doctor husband Richard, giving medical care to poor immigrants in isolated outposts; in Victoria she volunteered – and organized volunteers – in hospitals and seniors centres like The Cridge Centre for the Family.

Soon after her arrival in Victoria, Anne was travelling on a bus on which every seat was taken. When an elderly lady boarded it, a young girl in a green blazer and beret immediately stood up and offered her a seat. Mrs. Spicer asked the young girl what school she attended and, on receiving the reply “Norfolk House,” decided immediately to send her own daughters there.

Shortly after the arrival of Winnifred Scott as Headmistress and her introduction to the Spicers, it became clear that they all were on-side about the importance of languages and Anne was pleased to join the staff (1960-69) to teach German. The German course grew in popularity and Anne also took on the teaching of Scripture in the Senior grades. Not long after, and possibly the most significant contribution to the school was her sponsorship of the Social Service Club which became a permanent part of school activities with all grades participating. Her lifetime interest in this eventually became a factor in leaving the school to become increasingly involved with various aspects of social work on a full time basis, especially at the Cridge Centre.

Her three daughters all went to and graduated at NHS, Hilary ‘62, Jennifer ‘65, and Robin ‘71. Her son, Christopher, attended University School and St. Michaels – I guess she never saw a Glenlyon boy standing for an elderly person on a transit bus! Hilary was to return after graduation as a French teacher at Glenlyon for a short while (1984-86). Her son, Joel was a ‘lifer’ at the school (except for spending his Grade 4 year in China) and became the Head Boy of GNS in 1989/90.

In 1997, Anne Spicer was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada. The citation read: “The ill, senior citizens and families in crisis on Vancouver Island have all benefited from her support. In the 1980s, she played a key role in opening the first Canadian Abbeyfield House, a non-profit residence for seniors. Her other contributions to improving the lives of seniors include a hot meal program and the first Adult Daycare Centre in the area, which attracts health professionals from around the world. As well, she helps needy families apply for low-rent housing and has been instrumental in establishing a dialogue between senior citizens and street kids. A life of service indeed.

Anne Spicer passed away in 2012.