- March 16, 2013
- Elkins, West Virginia
of Ursula's Passing
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“Kitty, Marsha, Larry and Jim,
Just learned of your Mother's passing. She was a grand lady and we know she will be missed. Our heartfelt sympathy...Read More »
1 of 31 | Posted by: Steve Jones - Berthoud, CO
“I now live in the great state of texas but fondly remember Sen Spears from my years of high school and raising my children in Randolph County. What...Read More »
2 of 31 | Posted by: Rebecca Fincham Currence
“Marsha.....I was very sadden to see the news of your Mom's passing. She was a remarkable lady. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
3 of 31 | Posted by: Gene Onestinghel - Amherst, VA
“Jim, I am so sorry to hear of your mothers passing. She was a grand lady and always made me feel welcome in your home.
4 of 31 | Posted by: Rocky Cain - Georgetown, DE
“Jim, I was very sorry to hear of your Mothers passing. Condolences to you and yours.
5 of 31 | Posted by: Juanita ((Ramsey) King - Elkins
“Kitty and Jim
I was saddened to hear of your mother's death. I respected her so much during my time working in the Senate. She was truly a role...Read More »
6 of 31 | Posted by: Carol Gandee-Jones - NC - Friend
“Dear Jim and Ellen:
Michael and I express condolences to you and the entire Spears family for your loss. We feel very fortunate to have had our...Read More »
7 of 31 | Posted by: Jacqueline Proctor - Huntington, WV
“Jae has been a wonderful dedicated friend to West Virginia women and men. She was a role model for all of us. She enjoyed coming to Adaland. We loved...Read More »
8 of 31 | Posted by: Ann Serafin - Philippi, WV
“So sorry for your loss. Jae was a beautiful person, inside and out. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Diane
9 of 31 | Posted by: Diane Britton Floyd - Fairmont, WV
“Please allow me to express my sincere condolences, especially to Kitty Cooper. As you may remember, I worked as Senator Spears' counsel at the WV...Read More »
10 of 31 | Posted by: Page Hamraick - Charleston, WV
“Diligence, integrity, dedication and many more adjectives describle the successful wife, Mother, political leader we have lost. It was a honor to be...Read More »
11 of 31 | Posted by: Harold and Julia L.P. Elbon - WV
“Our thoughts and prayers are with your family. Your mom was quite a lady.
12 of 31 | Posted by: Randi Brammer - Lake Jackson , TX
“It was my honor to know and assist your loved one Jae Spears in her political career. She was always gracious and kind-hearted and loved to...Read More »
13 of 31 | Posted by: Merrill VanDevender - Kerens, WV
“Senator Spears was my mentor. I worked as her attorney when she was the Chair of the West Virginia Senate Government Organization Committee. She...Read More »
14 of 31 | Posted by: Jann Hoke - Hamlin, WV
“I am so sorry for your loss, my thoughts and prayers go out to your family. In the past year I have grown close to Morgan and really learned of how...Read More »
15 of 31 | Posted by: Jason Rother
“A great Christmas memory at the Spears' open house to the family friends. Warmth flowed throughout the house. A reflection of joyous times and of how...Read More »
16 of 31 | Posted by: Moses Zegeer & Judy - Charleston, WV
“Jim, Ellen, the Spears Family. Our deepest sympathy in your time of loss. Though it has been some time since we've seen each other, I remember the...Read More »
17 of 31 | Posted by: Joe & Beth Gray
“To the family, We are so sorry for your loss.
18 of 31 | Posted by: Eddie & Debbie Mitchell - Elkins, WV
“I want to send my deepest sympathies to all of the Spears family, in the loss of such a wonderful woman. I had only met her a few times, but the...Read More »
19 of 31 | Posted by: Debbie Rinehart - Clarksburg, WV
“I am saddened to learn yesterday of the passing of our wonderful Aunt Jae Saturday. From the time they settled in Elkins back in 1954 I believe, our...Read More »
20 of 31 | Posted by: Bill Spears - Bridgeport, WV
“Dear Spears Family,
We send our heartfelt condolences and prayers to each of you.
21 of 31 | Posted by: Neil Poe - Clinton, OK - n/a
“Jae will truly be missed by her family, former constituents and many friends. I recall many interesting discussions while working for the Inter...Read More »
22 of 31 | Posted by: Diana Bedell - Bridgeport, WV
“I am saddened by the passing of Senator Spears. Jay has been a friend of our family for years. Our Son David campaigned for Jae each time she...Read More »
23 of 31 | Posted by: Janet & Joe Godwin - Elkins, WV
“I am sending my heartfelt condolences to you in the loss of your loved one. May God's grace be with you during your time of grief.
24 of 31 | Posted by: Donna Lee Cowan
“My thoughts and prayers are with the entire family.. I remember when i was in grade school at North Elementary and we went on a field trip to visit...Read More »
25 of 31 | Posted by: Candice Heavner
“I had the ptivilege of knowing Mrs. Spears. From he early political days to her time in office when I was stationed in Elkins with the WVSP. She...Read More »
26 of 31 | Posted by: Bill Kershner - Charleston, WV
“To the Spears family, I am sorry for your loss and know you will be comforted by the touch of his hands, and, knowing this fine lady accomplished so...Read More »
27 of 31 | Posted by: Virgil Tacy, Jr. - Friend
“Jim, Ellen & Family:
I'm so very sorry to hear of Ms. Jae's passing. While I'm sure it is a mixed blessing it is so very difficult to lose a loved...Read More »
28 of 31 | Posted by: Merllene Yorkey - Friend
“Back in the 70s while I was in college, I took an internship class and Jae allowed me to work with her in a secretarial capacity for a term. I...Read More »
29 of 31 | Posted by: Ruth Eakin Cobb - Elkins, WV
“Jim & Ellen, and all of the Senator's family, I'm so very sorry to learn of your loss. I remember Jae from the time I was a little girl, a couple of...Read More »
30 of 31 | Posted by: Anita Wooddell Hanifan - Elkins, WV
“I was saddened to hear of Aunt Jae's passing. I always enjoyed the visits that she and Uncle Lawrence made to Ceredo to visit my grandparents (Eva...Read More »
31 of 31 | Posted by: Valerie Hodge - Great Niece
Senator Ursula Jae Spears, a West Virginia Senator for twelve years and a three term member of the House of Delegates, departed this life Saturday March 16, 2013 at her home in Elkins.
The Elkins legislator for eighteen years established a record of firsts for women in state government. She was the first woman to serve as Senate Majority Whip and the first and only, female to chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
Spears, wife of Colonel Lawrence E. Spears, retired, U.S. Air Force career officer, and past WV Deputy Commissioner of Commerce, who preceded her in death on March 14, 1996, was a former reporter for the Cincinnati, OH newspapers and radio and TV stations, WLN and WSAI.
Spears pioneered the participation of women in the legislative process. Elected in 1974 as one of only eight women to the one hundred-member House of Delegates, she saw, during her eighteen years of service, the female membership of that body grow to nearly twenty-five percent.
In 1980, Spears was elected as one of only two women to the thirty-four member West Virginia State Senate. Two years later she was appointed Senate Majority Whip, becoming the first woman to hold a leadership position in either House. As Senate Finance Chairman in 1984-1986, she became the first and only woman to head the committee that puts together the budget for the state. She was also the first woman to sit on the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.
Particularly active in the health care field, Spears sponsored and saw enacted into law the first home health care bill and the first bills that provided help for hemophiliacs and for autistic children. She served for many years on the Statewide Health Coordinating Council, and was part of the steering committee which established the Hampshire County Retardation Center. She was one of three Senators who wrote the bill authorizing the Rural Health Initiative. She served for a number of years as a member of the Visiting Committee (Advisory Board) for West Virginia University's College of Medicine.
A strong advocate for protection of the family farm, Spears served fourteen years on the West Virginia University Visiting Committee for Extension and Continuing Education.
Active in promoting literacy for all West Virginians, Spears served several terms on the state board of directors for the West Virginia Branch, Literacy Volunteers of America and was state president for two terms. She was a member from its inception of the Governor's Literacy Council.
As a member of the Advisory Council for WNPB-TV, Morgantown, Spears became its chair for two years. She served as a member of the Advisory Commission of the Governor's Task Force for Children, and on the Advisory Board for the West Virginia Women's Commission.
Senator Spears also served for many years on the state board of directors for the West Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges and recently was recognized for her contributions and support to Glenville State College, when that college named their board room in her honor.
An ardent advocate for veterans and the National Guard, Spears' bill for employing and training veterans—the first such legislation in the nation—brought her a national award from the U. S. Department of Labor and Veterans Affairs. She was the first legislator to receive the state Veterans Council award, and was named an honorary brigadier general in the West Virginia National Guard. She served for a number of years on the executive board for the West Virginia Employers Support Group for the Guard and Reserve.
Spears was honored by the Governor of North Carolina with an environmental award for her work in protecting the West Virginia portion of the New River. She received awards from the Professional Educators Association and the West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees. She was named woman of the year by the National League of American Pen Women and by the Elkins Branch of the B.P.W. She received the Susan B. Anthony Award from the state organization of N.O.W.
Following her legislative service, Spears was appointed by the Governor and the Supreme Court to the Judicial Hearing Board.
Spears served both as a regular and an honorary board member for the Elkins YMCA, having established the first continuous women's exercise program and nursery. She served for many years on the Randolph County Council for Human Services and is an honorary board member of Women's Aid in Crisis.
She is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the South and Southwest, Who's Who in Politics, and Who's Who in West Virginia.
Her memberships included John Hart Chapter, DAR; Elkins Branch, Pen Women; American Legion and VFW Auxiliaries; Theta Sigma Epsilon, journalism honorary; honorary member Delta Kappa Gamma, teachers honorary; Alpha Xi Delta social sorority; and the First United Methodist Church of Elkins.
Surviving are four children: Katherine Jae "Kitty" Cooper and husband Jim, Charleston, WV; Marsha Bruce Spears, Austin, TX; Lawrence Michael "Larry" Spears and wife Judy, Raleigh, NC; and James Westbrooke "Jim" Spears and wife Ellen, Elkins, WV; nine grandchildren: Katherine Cooper; Patrick Spears; Hunter Duncan; Andrew Spears and wife Tasha; Brooks Spears; Morgan Duncan; Logan Spears; Alex Spears and Lauren Spears; and one great grandson, Anderson Spears. Her long-term companion, John Brennan, of Shinnston, WV, predeceased her in June 2012.
Born in Latonia, KY; a daughter of the late James and Sylvia Fox Marshall, she graduated from Covington High School and attended the University of Kentucky.
The family will receive friends at the Lohr & Barb Funeral Home of Elkins on Friday from 5PM until 8PM, On Saturday March 23rd; Senator Spears will be moved to the First United Methodist Church at Elkins, where Senator Spears will lay in repose - an honor bestowed on state dignitaries – from 12:30PM until 2PM. At 2PM, a funeral ceremony will be celebrated with the Rev. Dr. Basil A. Hensley and the Rev. Barry R. Moll officiating. Interment will follow at the Beverly Cemetery at Beverly, WV.