Kay Spencer passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 28 surrounded by her loved ones. Born in Saugus in 1925, her mother having died during childbirth, Catherine was raised by her Italian-immigrant grandparents Peter and Maria DeFronzo. Her loving aunts and uncles became her siblings yet Kay would often credit her grandmother as the single most important influence in her life. Family life centered around each other, hard work, good food, and pets, including her pet pig Jojo.
She was always a star pupil, from elementary school through earning a bachelors degree in her 50s. She even won the 7th grade History Prize, which she then forfeited to a sobbing student, a boy named Jack whom she would go on to marry. After graduation from Saugus High School, Kay went on to study at the Peter Bent Brigham School of Nursing, where she assisted in the first kidney transplant. She loved nursing school, living in Boston, and sneaking out of the dormitory to purchase Red Sox bleacher tickets for 25 cents. Modern medicine held her fascination and likely equipped her with a tolerance for the many health challenges she faced throughout her life.
After the births of her three children, Maria, William, and Debra, she became the nurse at Saugus High School for 32 years. Beyond the healthroom, she chaired committees, founded and directed clubs, and was described as a “generous, compassionate, and caring professional. She is an outstanding person who has touched the lives of many people in Saugus.” She delighted in her work, and in her close friendships, and while she would occasionally overlook a pretend illness by a student, her own children regret that they were never allowed to miss a day of school.
She and her husband Jack enjoyed an unparalleled love and mutual adoration. Together they built a life around family and cherished friendships, helping others, berry-picking, cruising, politics, exotic cats, and stockpiling gifts for upcoming holidays and birthdays, with Kay earning the title “Mrs. Santa Claus” from her husband. Bargain-basement stores will likely see a drop in revenue without her steady support. Her generosity was limitless; she showered friends and family with cards, baked goods, and gifts, but it was her ability to listen non-judgmentally and with sincerity and authenticity that endeared her to so many.
Her life wasn’t without challenges, personal and medical. Yet she rose to meet every obstacle with grace, humor, grit and determination, leaving us all inspired to live our lives as fully as she lived hers.
She will be missed and continually celebrated by her family; daughter Maria Freedberg and her husband Paul, Debra Vitkosky and her husband William, grandchildren Alexis, Amy, Michael, and Sam, and great-grandchildren James, Eliza, Gabe, Katie, and Mallory. She is predeceased by her loving husband Jack and son William.
If desired or in lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to one of your favorite charities or one of Kay’s favorites: MSPCA or Kidney Foundation.