Stephen “Steve” Samuel Spurza, age 88, died Tuesday morning, March 12, 2013, in St. Louis, Missouri, in the presence of his family.
He was born May 23, 1924, in Little Falls, New York, the son of Lukas (Louis) and Anna Lenio Spurza, both of whom had immigrated to America from Yavora, in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine, in the preceding decade.
A 1942 graduate of Little Falls High School, Steve was drafted into the U.S. Army while a freshman at Oswego State Teachers College. From 1942 to 1945, he served with the 3730th Quartermaster Truck Co. in the China-Burma-India theatre of operations, driving supply trucks over the Burma Road to Kunming, in southwest China. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant on December 11, 1945, at Fort Dix, NJ.
After the war, Steve received his bachelor of arts degree from Oswego. In 1952, he received a master’s degree in education from Cornell University. Later, he continued graduate studies in education at Syracuse University, St. Lawrence University, SUNY Albany and SUNY Oneonta.
Steve served the Gloversville Enlarged School District for thirty-eight years. In 1948, he was appointed as an Industrial Arts/ Driver Education teacher. Five years later, he began his career as an elementary school teacher at McNab School. Remedial reading pedagogy became a particularly strong interest, and Steve subsequently served as a reading teacher at McNab and at Estee Middle School, and as District Reading Coordinator for the Gloversville Enlarged School District.
Steve’s eighteen years as an elementary school principal commenced at Meco School in 1968, with shorter stints at the old Kingsborough School and the Oakland Avenue School. He retired as Principal of Park Terrace School in 1986.
Outside the classroom and long after retirement, Steve continued to contribute much time and effort to a wide range of civic and charitable activities. A charter member and board chairman of the Fulton County Youth Bureau, he was actively involved with that organization for more than two decades. On the Fulton County YMCA Board of Directors (2000-2008), Steve was especially active in fund-raising, planning and development. He was a longtime member and sometime officer of the Fulton County Chapter of the American Heart Association, the Gloversville Lions Club, and the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge No. 1185, Johnstown. In addition to his community service, he worked for sixteen years after his retirement as a Sales Associate with Coldwell Banker-Arlene M. Sitterly Inc., of Johnstown.
Steve’s commitment to community service and to the education and well-being of the youth of Gloversville was exceeded only by his dedication to his family and his faith. He was especially devoted to his wife, the former Rose DiDonato, of Gloversville, who survives him. Married on June 30, 1951, they shared almost sixty-two years together.
Also surviving are two daughters and a son-in-law, Joanne, of New York, New York, and Barbara and Dixon Smith of St. Louis, Missouri; two grandchildren, Parker Smith and Maria Smith; one brother, Michael Spurza of Raleigh, North Carolina, and several nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives. He was predeceased by his parents, by an older brother, John (“Yosh”) Spurza, and an older sister, Sophie Eskoff.
Steve was a communicant of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Amsterdam, NY; he also belonged to The Church of the Holy Spirit in Gloversville.
Steve was a man of youthful outlook and immense loyalty, with a genius for friendship. He nurtured enduring ties with near neighbors, distant friends, and relatives abroad; he stayed in touch through phone calls, often made on the first day of the month. In the 1980s and 1990s, Steve and Rose attended Army reunions around the country; until last year, the surviving members of his high school class continued to meet. Steve was the organizer of the annual Spurza family memorial Mass in Herkimer, NY. A recent high point was his first visit to Ukraine in June 2011, “the trip of a lifetime and a dream come true,” to meet newly-discovered cousins and to see the land of his parents. An enthusiastic golfer for many decades, he could still be seen on the links this past summer. He also exercised regularly at the YMCA. Steve took great pleasure in driving his last car, a striking red 2010 Buick Lacrosse, a mark of his optimism and joy in living.
The family will receive relatives and friends from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 18, at Walrath & Stewart Funeral Home, 51 Fremont St., Gloversville, where Ukrainian hymns and prayers will be offered by Father Marian Kostyk and parishioners of St. Nicholas Church. A prayer service will be conducted at the funeral home at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a Mass of Christian burial at 10 a.m. at The Church of the Holy Spirit, Gloversville. The Very Rev. Donald Czelusniak will be the celebrant. Interment with military honors will take place at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Johnstown, in the spring.
Contributions may be made to The Stephen S. Spurza Memorial Scholarship Fund for Elementary Education (Gloversville School District, 234 Lincoln St., Gloversville NY 12078) or to The Stephen S. Spurza Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Fulton County YMCA. Condolences may be left on the family’s online guestbook at www.brbsfuneral.com.