Spencer J. Schnaitter, age 88, died on January 15, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio from complications due to COVID-19. Spence was born in Shelbyville, Indiana on January 21, 1932. He was the second child of Paul R. Schnaitter (Judge of the 5th Judicial Circuit Jefferson/Switzerland County) and Edith Spencer Schnaitter, (English School Teacher of Hanover High School and Primary School Teacher, Eggleston Elementary).
A graduate of Madison High School, Yale University and the Indiana University School of Law (Bloomington), Spence had a notable athletic career, as well as a career in public service for Madison, southeastern Indiana and the entire state. Spence was an Indiana All-Star basketball player, and the starting center of the 1950 Madison State Championship team and the 1949 State Runner-up team. In 1995 he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. An accomplished high school pitcher, Spence threw three no-hitters for the Cubs his senior year, still holds that school record, and had offers to play professional baseball. At Yale University he was a three-year starter on the basketball team, was MVP as a junior, team captain and leading scorer as a senior, and two-time all-Ivy League team member. He also played Varsity baseball, was a member of Phi Gamma Delta and the Skull and Bones Society.
Following his graduation from Yale, Spence married Laura Ann Mills on July 25, 1954. Spence and Laura lived in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Fort Carson, Colorado while he served as an active-duty artillery officer for the US Army. The Schnaitter family relocated to Bloomington, Indiana where he finished law school in June of 1959. During that summer the family moved back to Madison where he practiced law for more than sixty years. He loved the people of the city of Madison and was devoted to serving the local community his entire life.
Spence was elected to five, two-year terms as a Democratic member of the Indiana House of Representatives, from 1962-1963 representing Jefferson and Scott County, and 1973-1980 representing a five-county district including all of Jefferson, parts of Scott, Clark, Switzerland and Jennings Counties. From 1973-1980 he principally served on the House Ways and Means Committee and served as Chairman while Democrats held the majority in the 1975-1976 session. During his time in the Indiana legislature he focused on securing funding for local education, support for the Madison State Hospital, improvements at Clifty Falls State Park, the Lanier Home and local highways. He supported legislation for the creation of Ivy Tech Community College throughout Indiana, particularly in southeastern Indiana with its branch in Madison. Additionally, he steered the legislation that formed the Madison Port Authority, thereby saving the short line rail line between Madison and North Vernon.
Furthermore, Spence served as Senate Parliamentarian from 1991-1999 under Lt. Governors Frank O’Bannon and Joe Kernan. He also served as Legislative Liaison for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources from 1999-2001. In 2001 he received the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash award from Governor Frank O’Bannon.
In Madison, Spence served as City Attorney for a total of ten years, from 1960-1966 and 1985-1987. He also served as County Attorney three different times for Democratic County Commissioners. He provided legal representation for the Stucker Fork Water Conservancy District from 1966-2020, the Madison Port Authority from 1978-present and the Telegraph Hill Rykers Ridge Regional Sewer District from 1993-present. He had a special knack for local and state history and was often called upon as a resource for historical details.
Spence was preceded in death by his wife Laura of Madison and his sister Carolyn Schnaitter Willis of Naples, Florida. He is survived by his five children: Dwight Schnaitter and wife Suzanne Wilson of Salt Lake City, Utah; Laura Suzanne Schnaitter of Bloomington, Indiana; Spencer M. Schnaitter and wife, Deedra, of Crested Butte, Colorado; Edie Britton and husband, Bloyce, of San Antonio, Texas; and Jason Schnaitter and wife, Lisa Gravelle, of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has seven grandchildren and two step-grandchildren: Paul F. Schnaitter of Fort Collins, Colorado; Elizabeth Schnaitter of Fort Collins, Colorado; Colton Schnaitter of Louisville, Colorado; Hill and Spencer Britton of San Antonio, Texas; Brooke and Dylan Schnaitter of Salt Lake City, Utah; and Sam and Alex Wilson of Salt Lake City, Utah. Spence was also a Great-Grandfather survived by two great grandchildren, Mills and Emmy Schnaitter of Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as a niece, nephew, and numerous grand-nieces and nephews.
In Madison, he was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church, a member of the church choir for many years, and an active member of the Elks Club. Spence was a member of the Jefferson County Bar Association, the Indiana State Bar Association and served on the Jefferson County Cemetery Board. A passionate Democrat, he enjoyed his lifelong association with the Jefferson County Democratic Party and remained active in local politics.
Spence was a loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle, great uncle, and friend. Larger than life, he had a genuine curiosity about others and made friends at every turn no matter where he was. He loved sports, and was a passionate supporter of the Indiana Hoosiers and the Cincinnati Reds. He will be missed by his family, a multitude of friends, and associates across the state.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic a memorial service and celebration of life will occur later in 2021 when family and friends can safely gather. A private family burial service will take place at Springdale Cemetery. A livestream service may be viewed below at 1:00 PM on Saturday, January 30, 2021.
Donations in remembrance of Spence can be made to the Jefferson County Democratic Party, the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame or the charity of your choice.
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