Mary Joan Sprug

August 1, 1933 - September 22, 2023

Mary Joan (Storm) Sprug was born on August 1, 1933 in Guam and passed away on September 22, 2023, in Seattle, Washington at the age of 90. Her family moved to New York City in 1936, where her father worked in the infirmary of Ellis Island. When she was six, the family moved to Corona, California. Here she went to public school and then to college, double majoring in Mathematics and Literature from Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles. Wanting to pursue her literary studies, Joan moved all the way across the county to go to Catholic University in Washington D.C. She ended up all-but-dissertation from a Ph.D. in literature, possibly because at Catholic U, she met Josef Sprug. They married in 1957. Josef and Joan had six children.

Joan’s dissertation was on Henry James. In advice to his nephew, James said, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” The only piece of advice Joan ever gave was, “Don’t be unkind.”

She was smart and talented and level-headed. She could help her kids on their homework all the way through differential equations. She re-upholstered chairs and sofas and built dollhouses and created miniatures to go in them. She refurbished dolls and donated them to charity. She volunteered at the Silverton Library and the Historical Society of Silverton. She could quote all of Lady Macbeth’s lines and often did so while cleaning. She sewed Halloween costumes, made Kolaches, volunteered for the League of Women Voters, managed the family textbook store. Even when she was working, she would still read two or three murder mysteries a week. The side table was always full of library books. She could pack for a two-week trip in a tiny overnight bag and somehow have outfits for everything from rafting to receptions. If you took her to a dog park, all the dogs would stop and say hello to her.

In her later years, Joan developed Alzheimer’s. But even when she had trouble remembering names or dates, she could sing all the words to “Joy to the World” or “O! What a Beautiful Morning.” She was always game for a rousing round of “Look to the Rainbow.”

At their 50th wedding anniversary, Josef named each of their children and pointed out each child’s strength. One was thoughtful; one was generous; another was patient and another dependable; one was kind-hearted; one was joyful. “But Joan,” he said, “was all of these combined.”

She was the best of all of us.

Joan is preceded in death by her husband, Josef, and survived by children Barbara (Brian) Lewis, Stefan (Lisa) Sprug, Thomas (Marla) Sprug, David (Susan) Sprug, Margaret Sprug, and Kate (Bert) Wells; and grandchildren Nadine, Morgan, Sky, and Lucas.

Holding Fast

It comes down to her hands.

I see them on the steering wheel

of the wood-side station wagon.

They knead dough with consistent strokes.

Cut Christmas paper in clean, straight lines.

There she is, sitting on the velvet chair,

library book in those hands.

Hands that could refinish a table,

fix a torn novel,

comb my hair back in a ponytail,

paint angels on ceramics.

Two hands wrapped around the blue

coffee mug. Efficient hands wielding

paint brushes, hammers, paring knives,

and pinking shears.

Later, gnarled hands. These, too,

make up her story, but they won’t be

what I remember in time.

In memory, she will be moving with certainty,

knowing exactly what to do, every time.

Kate Wells

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