Monday, July 14, 2008

Query: Nena Spackman

CVGS received a query last month on our web site form from Marsha, who asked:

"About five years ago I purchased three Plein Air paintings of desert scenes. On the back of one painting is a label. The label is titled "consult." Next line reads "Nena Guilbert Spackman" followed by "Interior Decorations and Art." The label lists the studio at 135 Fourth Avenue, Chula Vista, and a phone number of C.V. 456-J. The paintings appear to be from the 1930s or 1940s based on the coiffure of the picture.

"I love the paintings and have tried to locate information on Nena Guilbert Spackman but cannot find any matches online. I can email pictures of the paintings and back label. Please let me know how I can help. I purchased these in Redlands, CA from an antique dealer. He said they were purchased from an estate sale sometime around 2000 somewhere in the Los Angeles Hills."

I did several hours of research, and tried to email Marsha with my response, but the email was bounced back three times. So, I'm posting the response here in hopes that Marsha will search again for Nena Spackman and see this post:

I was able to find several records online and in the Chula Vista Star-News newspaper. Here is what I found:

1) Nena Guilbert Spackman was born 27 January 1891 in Michigan, father's surname Minnick, mother's maiden name Misener. She died 11 January 1946 in San Bernardino county, CA. (from the California Death Index

2) Nena Minnick married Robert A. Spackman (born ca 1885 in England) in about 1929, probably in Los Angeles, CA. In the 1930 US census, they resided at 1647 Point View Street in the 57th Admin. District of Los Angeles city, Los Angeles County, CA (on NARA Microfilm T626, Roll 137, ED 125, Page 3A, lines 23-26, accessed on The household included:

* Robert A. Spackman - head of household, owns home, worth $8000, male, white, age 44, married, at age 44, born England, parents born England/England, a carpenter, works on houses.
* Nana Spackman - wife, female, white, age 38, married, at age 38, born MI, parents born Ohio/Canada, no occupation.
* Raymond W. Spackman - son, male, white, age 18, single, born NY, parents born England/England, a carpenter, works on houses.
* Ida C. Minnick - mother-in-law, female, white, age 65, widow, married at age 26, born Canada English, parents born PA/Canada, no occupation.

This census record is very helpful - since it gives Nena's husband's name, the fact that he had a son from a previous marriage, and Nena's mother's married name and birthplace.

3) Robert A. Spackman died 8 December 1933, at age 50 in San Diego County,CA (from California Death Index, 1929-1939 on

4) Raymond Archibald Spackman was born 6 October 1911 in New Jersey, died 16 March 1990 in Los Angeles County, CA, mother's maiden name was Dyer.

5) Mrs. Nena G. Spackman was listed in the California Voter Registrations lists in these years:

* 1932: Los Angeles City, Precinct 1710, at 5639 Aura Avenue, a Democrat
* 1934: Los Angeles City, Precinct 1710, at 5639 Aura Avenue, a Democrat
* 1934: Chula Vista, San Diego county, at 156 G Street, an artist, a Democrat
* 1936. Chula Vista, San Diego County, at 99 National, a Teacher, no party
* 1942: Chula Vista, San Diego County, at 135 2nd Avenue, an artist, a Democrat
* 1944: Chula Vista, San Diego County, at 135 2nd Avenue, an artist, a Republican

6) An article was published in the Chula Vista Star-News weekly newspaper on Friday, January 18, 1946, page 1. The article has a picture of Nena Gilbert Spackman and is titled "Dies Suddenly In Kaiser Hospital." The article says:

"Death, resulting from a heart attack, came to Nena Gilbert Spackman, age 54, well known art instructor, Friday, January 11, at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana, Calif., after about a ten-hour illness. According to the San Bernardino county coroner, who performed an autopsy on the body, Mrs.Spackman was stricken suddenly with what was thought to be indigestion. He pronounced her death due to natural causes.

"At the time of going to press, funeral arrangements were incomplete, pending removal of the body from Fontana. Tentative plans have been made for the funeral on Saturday afternoon. Services will be held at the Berge-Roberts Mortuary in National City with interment at Glen Abbey.

"After a 13-year residence in Chula Vista, Mrs. Spackman had moved last September to Fontana and has since been a teacher in the night school in the San Bernardino public school system. She has also done therapy work at the veteran's hospital at Lake Arrowhead.

"During her residence here, she spent 11 years as a teacher in the San Diego city schools and at Sweetwater Union high school. She also has taught in the Bishop School for Girls at La Jolla, where she did stage settings and costume designing for the dramatic department. Before coming to Chula Vista, she was an instructor in Hollywood and Los Angeles.

"In Chula Vista, Mrs. Spackman was active in the production of fiestas and dramatic presentations. She was a past oracle of the Royal Neighbors of America lodge.

"She is survived by an aunt, Mrs. Ella Gray of Newport Beach and by a stepson, Raymond Spackman of North Hollywood. She was a cousin of C.A.Majors of the Chick Inn in Chula Vista and also of Mrs. Delbert Lewis of Orange. She was born Jan. 27, 1891, at Crystal Lake, Mich. Her husband, Robert Spackman, passed away several years ago."

I looked for an additional article or obituary in the Star-News in the next two issues, but could not find one.

7) I looked for census records for Nena Minnick or Nena Giulbert or Gilbert in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census and didn't find her after much searching. I did find her parents, John Minnick and Ida Minnick, in the 1910 census residing in Alma Ward 3, Gratiot county, Michigan.

8) I Googled her names "Nena Minnick," "Nena Gilbert" and "Nena Spackman" and did not find any useful mentions of her life or career. There was a Misener genealogy at that listed her as daughter of Ida (Misener) Minnick and provided more information about her parents. She was an only child, apparently.

There are still some records that could be found if one were interested:

1) A death certificate could be obtained from San Bernardino County, but would not likely provide much more useful information than the above.

2) The San Diego City Directories could be searched to trace all of the entries for her over the years. They would likely show the same addresses found in the Voter Registrations. They might show who she lived with over the years. These are available at the Chula Vista library for many years,but not all years are available.

3) An obituary or article about her art might be found in the San Diego newspapers. I didn't check the index at the Chula Vista library to see if there was a listing. A copy of any article would require a trip to downtown San Diego's library.

4) A search of the Los Angeles City directories for the 1920's and 1930's might show her residences and occupations during those years she was residing there.

5) It is possible that she came from Michigan to California in the 1910's or 1920's - she apparently had an aunt and several cousins in California and she may have come to live with them while she went to school or started her teaching career. That's all conjecture, of course!

In summary - there are some records about her, but not many. And there is very little about her professional career, other than the obituary.

There is a difference between the home address in 1944 of 135 Second Avenue and the studio at 135 Fourth Avenue on your picture label. It's possiblethat they are both correct - a check of the City Directory would probably straighten that out.

You mention that the paintings were bought sometime around 2000 in the Los Angeles Hills. This probably means that Robert Spackman's son, Raymond Spackman, owned them and it might have been his estate that sold them. There may be a listing for the estate of Raymond Spackman (or a spouse of his) around 2000 in the Los Angeles County Probate Court records. I don't know if listings like that are available online.

That's all I can find in a two to three hour search. I hope it helps - at least you have some idea of the life records available for her, although her life between childhood and the 1930 census is pretty much a blank canvas.

I have a fairly poor copy of the newspaper obituary - I can send you a scan of it or could send it to you in the mail.


If you want to submit a query to CVGS for research about someone who lived in or died in Chula Vista area, please submit it through the CVGS web site at

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