ONEONTA – Douglas J. Spence, 85, who worked on Apollo 8, met the Beatles and spent 31 years in the newspaper business in Florida, drifted away at his home in Ormond by the Sea, Fla., on Dec. 18, 2018.
He and his twin brother, Donald, were born in Oneonta on March 28, 1933, to the late John and Betty Spence.
After graduating from Oneonta High School in 1952, the twin brothers joined the Navy. Doug served as a radarman, sailing around the world for four years.
His first crossing of the Equator took place near Singapore, changing his onboard status of “slimy polliwog” to “trusty shellback” with the traditional King Neptune’s line crossing ceremony.
After the Navy, Doug attended SUNY Oneonta and New York City College, graduating with a degree in printing and publishing. He worked for the missile division at Chrysler Corp. in Detroit as publication specialist, and transferred to General Electric in Syracuse, then in 1962 to Daytona Beach for the Apollo Program, putting the first man on the moon. Soon after that “Giant Step” occurred and most people were laid off from GE, Doug elected to stay in Daytona, working at The News-Journal for 31 years.
One of Doug’s favorite stories to tell was how he met the Beatles: In 1964, brother Don had created an abstract poster of the Beatles. The twins took off to Miami where the Beatles were appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. They passed out 100 posters, one of them reaching the hands of Brian Epstein, the band’s famous manager, who invited the twins up to the Beatles’ suite to discuss the possibilities for this abstract artwork that had both the Beatles and their manager quite excited.
Epstein called the Beatles’ New York City office and made an appointment with their attorneys the following week. However, London and political red tape would preclude the meeting from happening, but being together with the Beatles in their suite at the Deauville Hotel was a thrilling time in Doug’s life.
Doug enjoyed traveling with his wife, Marlene. Taking countless road trips and many luxury cruises. Doug also enjoyed NASCAR races, the YMCA; sporting events; camping, fishing, woodworking, and photography. As a huge NASCAR fan, and having attended the races for many years, when the twins turned 80 years old they both drove Richard Petty Stock Cars 8 laps around the high banks of Daytona at 150 mph. Talk about excitement!
Doug built all the furniture in his home and created wood art of all shapes from old weather-beaten driftwood he found on his daily beach excursions. In 1999 he was published in National Woodworking Magazine, showcasing his furniture. Doug also won numerous awards both locally and on photography websites. The City of Ormond Beach featured his photograph of the WWII Watch Tower on the front cover of their Annual Visitor’s Guide Publication in 2005. He was a long time member of The Casements Camera Club of Ormond Beach.
He was predeceased by his brother, William (Bill) Spence.
Doug is survived by his loving wife, Marlene, and three sons, James Donald (Charlene) of Scotia, Jeffrey William (Denise) of South Daytona, and Andrew Thomas (Lisa) of Oneonta.
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 12, at Haigh-Black Funeral Home, 167 Vining Court, Ormond Beach.