James (“Jim”) Edward Spence, 70, of Tampa, Florida passed away on Thursday, September 29, 2022, after a decade-long battle with cancer, surrounded by family and friends at home. He was the son of Gerald LeRoy Spence and Ruth Anna (McDougall) Spence, both of whom preceded him in death. Jim’s brother, John Grover Spence (Lauryl) also preceded him in death.
Jim was born on December 11, 1951, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He grew up in Thompson, Ohio, where he graduated from Ledgemont High School in 1970. He was a star football, baseball, and basketball player as well as a top academic student in high school and was recruited to play football at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT for the Class of ‘74. He was the co-captain of the football team, where he played strong safety, and captain of the Baseball Team, where he played catcher. He graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in History/Government and was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Jim’s first tour of duty was as a Deck Watch Officer on the USCGC Munro in Seattle, WA from 1974 to 1976. Jim then became the Commanding Officer of the USCGC Point Bridge in Marina del Ray, CA from 1976 to 1978 where he also appeared in several TV programs and a game show. He then stood watch at the U.S. Coast Guard Thirteenth District Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) in Seattle, WA from 1978 to 1981. In 1981 he moved to New York City where he was the Operations Officer of the USCGC Gallatin until 1984. Afterwards, he attended and earned a Master of Science degree in Telecommunications Systems Management from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA (1984 to 1986). Jim was then stationed in Portsmouth, VA where he was the USCG Fifth District Telecommunications Director. Jim served at USCG Headquarters from 1988 to 1990 as the Aide to the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Paul Yost. While there, he met several U.S. Presidents and traveled the world, including a trip to the South Pole in a C-130 with the Commandant. Jim was then selected to be the Executive Officer of the USCGC Hamilton in Boston, MA from 1990 to 1991, where he was also in charge of its change of homeport to Long Beach, CA, including a transit of the Panama Canal. Jim’s final Coast Guard tour of duty was as the Director of Information Systems for the Second Coast Guard District in St. Louis, MO, where he retired from service as a Commander in 1994.
Jim then went on to work for Sverdrup Civil, Inc. and OAO Technology Solutions out of St. Louis, MO and later Tampa, FL. While in St. Louis, he earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in 1994. He continued in private consulting work in Information Technology Project Management before his illness. During his cancer battle, he worked for Heritage Isles golf course in Tampa, FL, where he played on his off days.
Jim is survived by his wife of 28 years, Mary Kathleen (Morrissey) Spence; their two children, Ryan Patrick Spence and Kelly Marie Spence; his two older children, Daniel James Spence (Aileen) and Joshua John Spence (Becky); his three grandchildren, Lily, Abby, and John; his sister, Anna Marie McDonald (Michael); and his niece, Jenny Rose Spence.
Jim loved games of all kinds and was extremely competitive, no matter how small the undertaking. He coached numerous youth sports programs in the New Tampa area including football, baseball, softball, and soccer. He volunteered his time at the Masque Community Theatre in Temple Terrace, FL, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Nature’s Classroom, NJROTC at Wharton High School, and as the treasurer of Grace Episcopal Church in Tampa, FL. He adored his Coast Guard Academy classmates, his teammates, and his shipmates. He had a passion for golf, participating in the Coast Guard Golf Tournament in Myrtle Beach the last several years. He collected coins, stamps, shot glasses, and casino poker chips, built rocket models, and followed Cleveland sports with a passion.
Jim’s cousin, J. Kurt Spence, wrote “A Genealogical History of the Spence Family of Western Pennsylvania” that was published in 1997 and revised in 2003 by Mechling Bookbindery of Chicora, PA, tracing their family history back to a Pennsylvania land grant in 1786.
Jim Spence’s interment will be held at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL on January 6, 2023, at 10am, followed by a Celebration of Life from 2pm until 5pm at Heritage Isles Golf Club, 10630 Plantation Bay Drive, Tampa, FL 33647. Please come to share memories and memorialize a man that meant so much to so many. The family is in great appreciation of Cremations of Tampa Bay and information may be found at cremationstampabay.com. The family asks that instead of flowers, donations may be made to Jim’s favorite charity, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) at www.cgmahq.org which assists Coast Guard families in need.