June Byrne Spencer (age 98) died peacefully in her home in Chevy Chase, MD, on October 13.
Born and raised in Bay City, Texas, she came to Washington to attend Arlington Hall School. She worked for the federal government during the New Deal years, and as a State Department employee she was posted to Madrid during World War II.
She was married to James MacGregor Byrne, who served in the Foreign Service, and to Samuel Spencer, a Chair of the Washington Board which governed the District of Columbia. She is survived by four children and one grandson.
In 1960 June Byrne co-founded AAFSW (originally called the Foreign Service Women’s Association), and was its first president. AAFSW was founded in response to Foreign Service spouses who felt that the needs of spouses and families were not adequately explained to important decision makers. The idea was to form an organization removed from considerations of rank, which would represent families at every level. June later wrote that when she first made the suggestion that such an organization with elected officers be formed, “jaws dropped, there was silence. It was heretical.”
AAFSW Board member Mette Beecroft writes: “I am glad that she was able to attend [AAFSW’s] Millennium Celebration with some 250 people in attendance in order to hear just how much progress had been made during the years 1960-2000. It was also an opportunity to honor her as the founder.” Mette adds, “Though many people have contributed substantially to the success of the AAFSW, someone always has to initiate action. June Byrne Spencer was that person.”
Lesley Dorman writes, “June was a very special person, beloved and respected by all who knew her.”
A memorial service will be scheduled in the spring.
June Byrne Spencer was interviewed as part of ADST’s oral history program in 1989. To read her interview, google “June Byrne Spencer Oral History.”