Vardry Le'Mont `Bob' Spencer, 57, custodian

September 25, 2004|By Ed Goodpaster | Ed Goodpaster,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Vardry Le'Mont "Bob" Spencer, an honor college graduate who chose to do the custodial work that he felt gave him a freedom of mind that other jobs would not, died Monday at Union Memorial Hospital after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in his Charles Village apartment. He was 57.

For 15 years, Mr. Spencer was a janitor at the 100 West University Parkway apartment building in North Baltimore's Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood.

He moved through his daily chores wearing, when possible, headphones that played jazz and classical music. He owned no car, choosing instead ride a bicycle, sometimes carrying unwieldy loads.

"He knew how to balance things in life," said his brother, Reginald Spencer of Reading, Pa.

Mr. Spencer was born in High Point, N.C. He graduated from Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C., with a major in biology and attended Hood Theological Seminary, which at the time was attached to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church-supported college.

He managed apartment buildings in Salisbury, Durham and Winston-Salem, N.C., before moving to Baltimore.

At 100 West, residents who got past the image of isolation that his headphones gave Mr. Spencer enjoyed his wry sense of humor and insight.

He would talk about a wide range of topics, but only when time allowed and the subject caught his fancy. His self-taught knowledge of computers made him the building's unofficial computer technician, and in his spare time, he often helped residents deal with the challenges of electronics.

"Bob was a very loving person," said Kay Berney, the apartment house's former resident manager. "He had a real sense of inner peace and wisdom."

At home, he spent much of his time working on "The Poetry Shack," a Web site he maintained. In the introduction to the site, Mr. Spencer wrote: "Poetry is a consequence, the inability of the soul to silently contain the magnitude and depth of the beauty and the horror it touches."

A skinny tuba player in his high school band, he taught himself piano and organ, which he occasionally played in church when he was young.

To those who suggested that his education could offer him a higher level of employment, he would say he was not interested.

"He lived his life like he wanted to," said another brother, Kenneth Spencer of High Point. "He could have advanced more, but he was happier where he was."

No services are planned.

In addition to his brothers, survivors include his mother, Elizabeth Johnson Spencer of Saginaw, Mich.; and three sisters, Beverly Byers of Rockingham, N.C., and Inez Currie and Rose Gillespie of Saginaw.

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