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Retired Judge John Spon Sr.

October 31, 2012
The Herald-Star

SPON, Retired Judge John Randolph, Sr., 94, of Steubenville, OH, peacefully went to be with the Lord on Sunday, October 28, 2012, while at home and surrounded by his loving family.

He was born on April 28, 1918, in Campbell, OH (formerly East Youngstown), the third child of immigrant parents, Andrew and Meri Arsu Spon. His family later moved to Beech Bottom, WV, and then to Steubenville.

A resident of Steubenville since early childhood, John graduated from Steubenville High School in 1937 and from the Ohio Northern University College of Law in 1942. While at Ohio Northern University he was a member of Theta Nu Epsilon fraternity and president of Alpha Kappa Phi fraternity. He was also a member of the Sigma Delta Kappa law fraternity and chapter head of the national honorary journalistic fraternity of Alpha Phi Gamma. He also served on the Ohio Northern University Interfraternity Council, a university fraternity governing board. John also served as the business manager of the "Northern Review," a student publication. Prior to graduation from law school, John completed flight training and was honored by the flight selection board in Columbus by being appointed student manager of all naval aviation cadet enlistees at ONU, organizing a university squadron.

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Upon his admission to the Ohio Bar, John immediately entered military service in World War II with the U.S. Navy, eventually attaining the rank of lieutenant commander. His service experience included training at the Navy Iowa Pre-Flight School and advanced training at Lakehurst, NJ, flying navy patrol blimps. John further served as a navy communications officer and electronics maintenance officer. Twenty-five of the 40 months of his active duty were served overseas.

Upon his return from the war, John commenced the practice of law in Steubenville as an associate of Attorney C.L. Hawthorn. He then served as Chief Assistant in the office of the Jefferson County Prosecutor for almost a decade. In 1961, then Ohio Governor Mike DiSalle appointed John to fill the unexpired term of the late Emmett M. Morrow as judge of the Jefferson Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile/Probate Division, where Judge Spon served his community faithfully and honorably from 1961 through early 1985.

A recognized pioneer and innovator in juvenile justice, Judge Spon was the first Jefferson County judge to have established a juvenile department in the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and in other local law enforcement agencies. He also standardized law enforcement response requirements for juveniles across the county, and trained police in the handling of juveniles, so as to comply with state and federal law. He also created a county-wide delinquency prevention and control plan. While Judge Spon's primary focus as a juvenile court judge was that of prevention and rehabilitation, his judicial perspective was that the juvenile court is "not merely a social agency with a smattering of legal principles...but a court of law with a unique social philosophy and mandate: to save kids." Judge Spon's stated treatment philosophy was that "the treatment had to involve the whole being, the whole youngster, including the spiritual dimension as well as the mind and body."

Upon his retirement from the bench in 1985, Judge Spon was formally recognized by the Ohio House of Representatives as "one of Ohio's finest jurists." A media editorial regarding Judge Spon's 23 years of judicial service also referred to him as "a strong but compassionate judge... who had a deep commitment to the law...that he leaves behind a quiet, unassuming efficiency and shoes that will be hard to fill." In reflecting upon his impending retirement, Judge Spon stated that what he would miss most about his work is "trying to mend young lives, trying to help young people, within the context of legal jurisdiction." On February 27, 1985 Judge Spon's history of judicial service was presented to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was then officially honored in the House record.

Judge Spon served as a member of the Jefferson County Children Services Board, the Jefferson County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Center, the Jefferson County Mental Health Center, and the Steubenville YMCA. He also served as president of the Jefferson County Humane Society, and was a booster member and officer of the Steubenville Little League and of the Babe Ruth League. He was also an active member of the Steubenville High School Parent Teachers Association. A former director of the Steubenville Chapter of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, Judge Spon also served as president of the Amazing Grace Ministries, a local outreach for delinquent and drug addicted youth.

John was an avid amateur radio operator (W8CND) and conducted Bible studies on amateur and citizens band radio, as well as in his home. He enjoyed gardening, landscaping the hollow behind his home, and feeding the variety of birds that frequented his ingenious homemade bird feeder. He and his wife, Dorothy, loved dancing to big band music. He also had a lifelong interest in science and technology. He took special pleasure in passing on his years of wisdom to his children and grandchildren, having stated that "there is no greater wisdom than that which comes from God and His Word."

A man of personal and professional integrity, Judge Spon believed that to live honorably and faithfully before God is the highest calling of life regardless of one's personal circumstances. He loved the Lord, having personalized his faith in Christ during mid-life.

Even unto his last days, his greatest joy, beyond that of loving his precious wife, Dorothy, was knowing and serving the Lord. Courageous to do what was good, right, and true, no matter the cost, he walked humbly with God. In this regard, all of his children joyfully and gratefully concur that their father could not have given them any greater legacy.

John is survived by his beloved wife of 70 years, Dorothy (Mendelson) Spon (born in Cicero, IL), whom he married on October 27, 1942. In preparing for his departure from this life and into the eternal glory which is now his in Christ, he had inscribed on his burial stone the following statement regarding his great love for Dorothy: "To God be the 1939 I came, I saw, and I loved Dorothy, the pretty, little girl on the porch...John."

He will be greatly missed by his loving family. Children: Lelani "Penny" (Dr. Howard) Brettell of Steubenville; Law Director John, Jr. (Dusty) Spon and Judge Ron (Mary) Spon of Mansfield; Cynthia (Andrew) Young of Venetia, PA; Gail (Albert) Provenzano of Steubenville. Grandchildren: Attys. Gaither (Don) Deluca, Megan Brettell; Brittany, Morgen and Jonathan Spon; Attys. Heather (Todd) Wilkowski; Jennifer Oden, Ryan (Mary) Spon, Atty. Kaitlin (Jason) Godfrey, Molly (Dr. David) Boudreault, Dr. Aaron (Megan) Provenzano, and Dr. Ashley Provenzano. Great-grandchildren: Olivia and Andrew Deluca; Samantha Pagley; Jack, Mollie, Nick and Bennet Wilkowski; Jaffa and Jorie Oden. Nephew: Robert (Evelyn) Cuthbert and niece: Tammy (Brian) Casto. Great-nieces: Tiffany (Jon) Weaver, Amy (Bill) Menzalora, Alison ( Michael) Thomas; Greatnephew: Tyler Casto.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew and Meri Arsu Spon; infant son, Steven; four siblings: George and Andrew Spon and Mary (Bill) Cuthbert of Steubenville, and Sylvia (John "Jack") Devore and their son, Thomas (Todd) Devore, of Mingo Junction, OH.

Calling hours are Friday, November 2nd from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. at the Mosti Funeral Home, Sunset Chapel, 4436 Sunset Blvd, Steubenville, OH. A service giving glory to God for John Spon's life will be held on Saturday, November 3, at 11 a.m. at the First Westminster Presbyterian Church, 235 North 4th St., Steubenville.

Family will also receive friends at the church one hour prior to the service. Burial will follow in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, OH.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First Westminster Presbyterian Church, 235 North 4th St., Steubenville, OH 43952 or Valley Hospice, 380 Summit Ave., Steubenville, OH 43952. These donations may also be made through the Mosti Funeral.

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