Residents honor the late Charlotte Spinney with love and laughter
By Lauren Schiffman, Contributing Writer
Westborough – At the memorial service held Aug. 3 in the Westborough High School (WHS) auditorium that bears her name, the life of Charlotte, er, or as many referred to her, “Miss Spinney,” was celebrated.
The seats were packed for Spinney, a 40-plus year Westborough teacher and dedicated member of the community who recently passed away.
The service opened with a welcome from WHS principal Brian Callaghan, who shared Spinney’s rules for the service: no gum chewing in her auditorium; no crying in her auditorium; and an address to those who would share their personal stories: let guests know how they knew Spinney and how they made her laugh.
“Be kind,” he added. “She’s waiting for you.”
Former students, fellow Rotarians, book club members, family members; and friends gathered to show their love for this lifelong Westborough resident, or “townie,” as she had affectionately referred to herself. During the course of the service, some of the words that others used to describe Spinney included “adventuresome,” “leader,” “dedicated,” “funny,” and “impactful,” to name a few.
Bill Linanne, a longtime, local friend of the family, knew Spinney for 65 years. He shared the lessons he learned from her over the course of their friendship. She taught him to trust the facts and to “use influence to affect change.” She taught him to always give back.
“She always volunteered in the town she loved,” he said.
And she taught him that giving comes full circle.
“Giving was Charlotte’s middle name,” he said.
He added, “Charlotte also cherished the present, pointing out that every day is precious
and she showed us that all volunteering is good, and that you get back much more than you give. She set a powerful example for all of us to live by and has passed the torch to us to carry. It is a worthy challenge for us to continue the work she started, to support the causes she believed in, and to continue to build a better Westborough for all in the future.”
Echoing the sentiment of giving back, Paul McGrath, who spoke on behalf of the Westborough Rotary Club.
“Charlotte was Westborough. Her spirit lives on… in every person she touched here in Westborough,” he said.
Carrie Brown, administrator of the Charlotte Spinney Vision Scholarship, knew Spinney for many years and said that “Charlotte made connecting with people seem simple, effortless. Charlotte’s way with people was born out of her esteem for connection; with students, peers, neighbors, and …unsuspecting travelers throughout the world. She connected with the community and with individuals.”
Brown added that “Charlotte recognized the need for support across systems. Supporting the academic and emotional experiences of the student fosters an environment in which students can thrive. Recipients of this scholarship have said Charlotte’s dedication to them, their education, their family life, their choices changed their trajectory. To be known and encouraged by someone in their community was, as one scholar said, ‘ a game changer.’”
One attendee said that Spinney was the reason she spent three years in the Peace Corps. Another recounted that she told her to embrace life.
“Do what she would have done. Root for the home team. Have fun. And eat lots of ice cream.”
Another woman who knew Spinney since her childhood, summed up the sentiment of the morning beautifully.
“I’m going to continue walking forwards like she taught me,” she said.
It was a memorable tribute to an unforgettable woman.