American Veteran 03

John Todd Spafford

August 19, 1939 ~ March 23, 2024 (age 84) 84 Years Old

John Spafford Obituary

John Todd Spafford, age 84, of Southport, NC (St James) formerly of Alameda, California, passed away at his home on Saturday, March 23, 2024, following a time of declining health. Thanks to wonderful hospice care, and the devotion of his wife, sister, and daughter, he passed peacefully surrounded by loved ones.

John was born on August 19, 1939, in Connecticut and was the third of four children of the late Frederick Leighton Spafford, II and Elizabeth Hirst Spafford. In addition to his parents, John was preceded in death by two brothers, Frederick “Rick” Leighton Spafford III and Stephen Todd Spafford.

John was very proud of his Army service, most notably in the 177th in South Korea, as well as in Two Rock Station in California.  In his civilian career, he worked for the SCM Corporation, Ames Research Center, and the Stanford Electronics Laboratory. He felt called to public service and began a career as a Federal Human Resources Manager in a variety of agencies including the Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, U.S. Agricultural Research Service, and Department of Energy. His last agency was his favorite, the Environmental Protection Agency, where he worked for 14 years until he retired.

In his next career, he worked as a Career Consultant for Drake, Beam, Morin. He also started his own consulting firm called "Personal Diversity Appreciation," working largely with federal employee groups.  Active in the community, he served as the Chair of the NAS Alameda Restoration Advisory Board (cleaning up hazardous waste left by the Navy).

John joined the Alameda Rotary Club, later becoming President. His viewed his greatest contribution as raising $25,000 for stoves for the Indigenous people of Guatemala. He attended Rotary Events locally and internationally. When he moved to Southport, he was welcomed into the Southport Rotary Club. 

John was a fun-loving, sharp, and humorous man that lit up the room with his personality and “golden tongue.”  He kept his loved ones smiling with his sunny outlook, and sometimes outrageous jokes, right up until the end of his life. He was a natural leader who prided himself on understanding and appreciating the differences in people.

A very tender-hearted man, John loved animals and nature. He proudly spoiled his adored dogs over the years, especially his dear Oscar who was always by his side in Southport. An avid Oakland Raiders, fan, John sported black and silver proudly and named his previous Bichon Frise pup, “Raider Nation.”

John was the glue that kept the Spafford family connected by arranging reunions and sharing memories. His favorite recollections were times spent in Idaho and New England with family. “Remember your roots” was advice he passed on and lived by.

As a precious redheaded and freckle-faced little boy, John followed his dad’s career to myriad places in the world. From kindergarten through college graduation at San Jose State University, John attended twelve different schools from Connecticut to Hong Kong, Hawaii, Washington, and California. He attributed his love of travel to his vast cultural experiences. He and his wife, Paula, enjoyed fantastic trips across the globe and happily shared their experiences and love of cultural diversity with others.

John and Paula moved from California over three years ago to be closer to his daughter and son-in-law in Southport. John appreciated the friendliness of the North Carolinians and never met a stranger. He believed in eating dessert first, and found immense joy in ice cream, pies, and muffins. John was grateful for the simple pleasures of life.

Surviving are his beloved wife, Paula Swanson; a daughter, Jennifer “Jenna” Spafford Cooley, and husband, Steve; a son, Todd Alan Spafford; a sister, Cynthia Orlandella and husband Vicente; two sisters-in-law, Jan Spafford, Carol Spafford; grandchildren, Nick Mueda and Katie Mueda, and bonus grandchildren and great grandchildren Teren Cooley/Gabi and Denver, and Ty Cooley/Lyndsey, Colton, and Bodie; a brother-in-law, Steve Swanson and wife Debby, and a beloved canine companion, “Oscar Wilde”.

A private Celebration of Life service will be held on a future date.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests with gratitude that donations be made in his name to the Old Cowboy Animal Rescue, 5839 Elevation Road, Benson, NC 27504, or PayPal at or to the Humane Society for U.S.:

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A Private Celebration of Life will be held.


Old Cowboy Animal Rescue
5839 Elevation Road, Benson NC 27504

The Humane Society of the United States
1255 23rd Street, NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC 20037
Tel: 1-866-720-2676


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