WILLIAM D. SPAIN
William Darius Spain of Mahopac, New York died on August 31, 2011, age 92. He was born on August 26, 1919, first child of Mable Hollister Spain and William Henry Spain at the family home on McAlpin Avenue in Mahopac.
Mr. Spain is survived by his seven children: Sharon (Doug) Rodda, William (Regina), Compton (Catherine), Michael (Trish), Kathryn (Brian) Miles, Jeffrey (Michele) and Christina and eleven grandchildren. His wife, Curtis, died in 2010, and his sister Laura Spain Brumby died in 1981. He is also survived by his brother, John Spain of Darien, Connecticut.
Mr. Spain served as the president of Spain Agency, Inc, an insurance brokerage firm in Mahopac, for fifty years. He was a licensed real estate and insurance broker and a member of the New York State Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters (CPCU) since 1957.
Pillar of Mahopac Business Community
He attended local schools and spent his summers swimming, fishing and boating on Lake Mahopac and playing hockey and ice fishing in the winter. He enjoyed spending time with his grandfather, Darius Spain, an Irish immigrant and railway foreman who settled in Mahopac in the 1880s. At age 11, his father gave him a goat, harness, and cart and he would give rides to neighborhood children. On Saturday mornings, he would accompany his father, founder of the Mahopac National Bank, to Putnam Valley, where branch banking was conducted on the fender of the family’s Model A Ford sedan. On Saturday afternoons, they would attend horse races at Carmel Race Track, where his father was a horse owner and track director. As a teenager, he worked for D. Spain & Son, a family business, shoveling coal and delivering feed and grain to local farmers. He went on to attend Fordham Prep and Fordham University. While at Fordham Prep he served as an altar boy and after Mass would eat breakfast with the football team, including Vince Lombardi and the Seven Blocks of Granite. After college he returned home and bought the Lake Mahopac Insurance Agency from his father; it was the summer of 1941.
Drafted into the Army shortly thereafter, he completed Officer’s Candidate School, was commissioned a second lieutenant and sought a transfer to the infantry and overseas duty. He was assigned to the 133rd Regiment of the 34th (Red Bull) Infantry Division and shipped to Casablanca, Morocco in 1942. He served as a platoon and company commander in North Africa and Italy and fought in the Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Northern Apennines and Po Valley campaigns. Cited for his “ability to lead men in combat,” he was promoted to Captain. He led an infantry company that liberated the City of Bologna and later witnessed the public display of the recently executed Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini in Milan. He and several fellow officers were the first Americans given leave to enter Switzerland in 1945.
When the war ended he was sent to the Italian/Yugoslav border to quell fighting and civil unrest. During his time in combat, he served with both French Foreign Legionnaires and JapaneseAmerican Nisei, for whom he had great respect. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, World War II Victory Medal, European Theater Ribbon with three battle stars, a Bronze Star and numerous campaign ribbons. He returned from Europe in the fall of 1945 and was honorably discharged from the Army in January, 1946. He remained in the Army Reserves through the mid 1950s.
He met a TWA flight attendant, Curtis Bass Smith, at a dance at the Mahopac Golf Club and they married in 1948. They lived in Lake Mahopac since that time. Mr. Spain was an avid golfer, first as a caddie, then as a lifelong member of the Mahopac Golf Club. He continued to shoot in the low 80s while in his low 80s and also maintained membership in the Imperial Golf Club in Naples, Florida. He played golf courses all over the world.
In 1966 he obtained a pilot’s license and instrument rating and kept a Cessna 180 airplane at the Mahopac Airport, a grass strip on Hill Street. Over the years, he owned and flew numerous single and twin engine aircraft, ferrying family members to schools, camps, vacations and to the family cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. He taught two of his sons to fly. He taught all his children to snow ski and spent many weekends and vacations with them at Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks. In 1965, he, together with friends Delong Kellogg and Mario DeGregorio, leased and operated the Birch Hill ski area (now Thunder Ridge) in Patterson, so their children would have a place to snow ski that winter. His summers revolved around Lake Mahopac where he spent untold hours teaching all his children, relatives and friends to boat, swim and water ski.
Mr. Spain was a lifelong jazz enthusiast and an accomplished stride piano player, a style popular in the 1930s. His band, “the Serenaders” played in clubs throughout Putnam County and was the house band at Skipper’s Tavern (now Marco’s Restaurant) during the summers of 1938 and 1939. In the 1950s and 60s he would often take his children to jazz clubs in New York City to hear music. He was friends with Ray Bloch, the band leader on the Ed Sullivan television show, and took his children to live performances, including the Beatles’ American debut on February 9, 1964.
He was a director of the Mahopac National Bank for fifty years, eventually becoming its largest shareholder. He oversaw the merger of the bank with Tompkins Financial, Inc. in 1999 and served as an honorary director with that institution. He was a founding member of the Mahopac Chamber of Commerce and served as its first president. He also was a member of the Industrial Development Agency and Town of Carmel Planning Board, serving as its chairman for eight years and drafting and implementing new and modern zoning laws and regulations. He was also a past president of the Westchester County Insurance Agents Association and the Putnam County Insurance Agents Association. He maintained memberships in the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion. He was a member of the Holy Name Society and an altar boy, lector, and lifelong communicant at the Church of St. John the Evangelist.
Mr. Spain was devoted to his family and was more generous than any father could be. His family will miss him. A wake was held at the Joseph J. Smith Funeral Home on Tuesday, September 6th and the Funeral Mass was held on Wednesday, September 7, at the church of St. John the Evangelist in Mahopac. Interment followed at Raymond Hill Cemetery, Carmel.