Joseph Peter Spang, III, 85, of Deerfield, MA, died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday May 7, 2020. Born in Chicago on May 11, 1934, he was the younger son of Joseph Peter Spang, Jr. and Gwendolen (Green) Spang.
In 1938, after his mother’s death and his father’s appointment to the Gillette Company, the family moved to Massachusetts, where they had a large extended family. He and his brother, Thomas J.G. Spang, were raised by their father and their aunt, Marie F. Spang, in Brookline and, later, Milton. In 1957, Peter and his aunt found a house in Manchester by the Sea, where Peter spent 62 summers.
Peter attended the Dexter School and Brooks School, and graduated from Harvard College in 1956. Following a period of travel and study abroad, Peter moved to Deerfield in September 1959, when he was appointed as the first curator of Historic Deerfield, Inc. Working with the museum’s founders, Henry and Helen Flynt, Peter grew the collections, contributed to the academic programs and cultivated and maintained relationships over many years with a growing group of constituents and donors. He retired in 1986 but remained affiliated with the museum, first as senior associate for special projects and later as a trustee. His interests in American history, architecture and material culture extended to affiliations and service with other institutions including Historic New England, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and the Trustees of Reservations. He was elected a member of the Walpole Society in 1983, participating enthusiastically in the twice-yearly gatherings of this group of collectors and scholars and was a fixture in New York City each January for Americana Week and the accompanying antiques shows, auctions and social gatherings. Other memberships included the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, the American Antiquarian Society, the Club of Odd Volumes, the Somerset Club and the Singing Beach Club.
Collecting was for Peter a professional responsibility and a personal pleasure. In his student days in London he explored Portobello Road and began assembling a collection of architectural pattern books that is now housed at Historic Deerfield. Another passion was ocean liners. Peter loved his early travels across the Atlantic before air travel eclipsed the ocean liner. Family was perhaps Peter’s most abiding passion. He was devoted to his brother Thomas, who died in 2009, and to Tom’s wife, Caroline; as well as to his nieces and nephew and their children. The keeper of the family lore, he maintained contact with the extended Spang family of aunts, uncles, and cousins and with his mother‘s Anglo-Irish family in England, Ireland, Scotland, and the continent.
Through his love of antiquities, Peter developed a substantial social circle, into which he continued to welcome family and friends and introduce people with common interests. He delighted in his travels in the US and abroad, as well as in his summers in Manchester, where he hosted an extended network of family, friends and colleagues who were the beneficiaries of his warmth, humor and knowledge.
Peter is survived by his sister-in-law Caroline Spang of Manchester, niece Charlotte Spang and her husband Peter Lape of Seattle, WA, niece Vanessa Spang and her husband Bruce Levin of San Francisco, CA and nephew Tom Spang and his wife Betsy Spang of South Hamilton, MA, and five great-nieces and nephews.
Private funeral services were held in Manchester, and a memorial service in Deerfield, per Peter’s wishes, will be held later this year. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Historic Deerfield, Inc., Massachusetts Historical Society, The Trustees of Reservation, Historic New England and Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association.