Audrey Mae (Spencer) MacDonald
Brief Biography of Audrey’s Life
Audrey Mae Spencer was born on March 19, 1912 at the Spencer Homestead on Middle Road, just east of the Spencer Family Historical Cemetery(No. 9), in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. She was the third child of Mary Jane Vaughn and William J.B. Spencer. Audrey had an older sister, Edith Anna, and an older brother, John Edward Spencer.
Audrey was named after her great, great, great, great, great, great, great (7 times) grandmother Audrey Green who married John Spencer, the son of Susannah Grifﬁn and John Spencer (who was granted land by the King of England when East Greenwich was incorporated in 1647).
Audrey was accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I. for the incoming class of 1931 and completed three years of work in the graphic design department. Being accepted into such a prestigious program on a full scholarship was quite a feat for a farmer’s daughter during The Great Depression. Since all the other students at R.I.S.D. were city people, being a farmer’s daughter made Audrey quite a unique student. One of Audrey’s instructors, Elise Gardiner, a well-known artist and teacher, who saved one art piece from each of her students, asked for and saved Audrey’s drawing of a sleeping calf. Since all the students were city dwellers, Audrey’s drawing of an animal in a rural setting was unusual.
While a student at R.I.S.D., she met a young man, Milton Earl MacDonald, at a neighborhood dance. Milton was a fine dresser, an accomplished guitarist, a ﬁne dancer, and the best pool shark in the county.
Milton was the sixth child of Annie Walton and Joseph MacDonald of Scituate, Rhode Island. The name Mac means “son of”. Therefore, Milton was a descendent of the Donald Clan in Scotland. The Donald clan is the strongest and largest of all the Scots clans. Their ancestral home on the Isle of Skye (off the Scotland mainland) and this land will remain in perpetuity as the ancestral land of Clan Donald.
Milton and Audrey’s wedding was held at Audrey’s home, 742 Washington Street, Coventry, Rhode Island, with the well-loved and respected Rev. Mr. Buecker ofﬁciating. Audrey was the last of the Spencer ancestors in Rhode Island, since the mid 1600s, to be married at home; future marriages would be held at churches. Beginning in the 1930s, it was no longer fashionable to have weddings at home. Marriage ceremonies became a church function in the church buildings.
Audrey, like most women of that time in history, married and raised her children and never returned to complete her studies at the R.I. School of Design and never pursued her professional career goal of being a graphic artist.
Audrey and Milton raised seven children, Spencer Kent, Dawn Brooks, Douglas Winston, Crystal Gay, Heather Dale, Deardra Dell and Vaughn Ray. Their ﬁrst home, built by Audrey’s father, was a small house on Seven Mile Road in Scituate. Later, they moved back to her family home on 742 Washington Street in Coventry. In 1943, they purchased a larger house on East Greenwich Avenue in West Warwick, Rhode Island, and moved in when Heather was nine months old and Audrey was pregnant with Deardra.
Audrey’s ﬁrst four children were born at the Lying Inn Hospital in Providence and the last three were born at Mitchell’s Maternity Home on 45 Read Avenue in West Warwick.
Milton’s trades were welding and lace weaving. He was highly accomplished at both. During World War II, he worked long, labor intensive double shifts welding Liberty Ships at Walsh-Kaiser Company Shipyard in Providence, RI. The shipyard was working around-the-clock building the ships that carried cargo and troops to Europe. On November 21, 1943, he was promoted to the position of Pipe Welder leads-man with the responsibility of leadership and supervision of a group of eight to ten men. After the war, he mastered the three-year apprenticeship in lace-weaving to become a highly skilled lace weaver. When a lace weaving machine from Germany took the place of eight men, Milton returned to welding. In 1958 he began his work at General Dynamics where he welded submarines for the government. The last few years he was an inspector charged with ensuring that the work being done by Electric Boat would be approved by the Navy allowing the submarine to be launched. He retired at welding-master level, from General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, in 1980.
Although never returning to her academic studies in the formal sense and never beginning a professional career in graphic design, Audrey used her creative and artistic talents with her seven children and as a homemaker—drawing ﬂowers on bureaus, on walls (before it was fashionable as it is today), drawing her children’s pictures on scarves, designing place mats, etc. Many of her children write poetry, draw, and have that creative bent. Her youngest daughter, Deardra, excels in home design and decor.
Milton, born in 1915, died on November 22nd, 1995. Audrey, 92, born in 1912, is now a resident at Alpine Nursing Home in Coventry, RI. After giving up housekeeping at her West Warwick home, Audrey enjoyed living with her daughters whose homes were only a couple miles apart. Most weeks she would spend her three day weekend with Dawn’s family and spend her four day weekdays with Crystal’s family. She would enjoy the two mile “traveling” back and forth between her daughters’ homes. She also spent time with her daughter Deardra’s family and the families of her sons,Vaughn and Spencer. In addition, daughter Heather and son Douglas would often come from out of state and take Audrey on day trips. She loved going places, activities from checking the upkeep of the historical cemeteries, visiting cousins and DAR members, trips to museums, family reunions at granddaughter Amber’s home, July 4th activities…
[Update information from the initial hard copy publishing date of 2004: On December 5, 2004 Audrey moved from Alpine Nursing Home to Kent Regency Nursing Home in Warwick, R.I. and died on March 11, 2007, just shy of her 95th birthday.]
In compiling these interviews, I understood for the ﬁrst time why Mother was so interested in our New England history, even though I and her other children, who were busy with their own work and family life, were not particularly interested. This colonial history meant everything to her. This was her reason for being. To my surprise, I find myself working to preserve and pass down the legacy that Audrey handed me. With this website as a base my hope is that other family members will continue the work preserving this legacy. May this Yankee strength live on in all of us!
Audrey Mae’s grandfather and Audrey Mae’s great-granddaughter
Audrey Mae’s grandfather, John Johnson (aka “Ace”) Spencer, brought his own horse with him when he enlisted in Lt. Greene’s Co., 1st Reg’t New England Cavalry of the American Civil War. He obviously was an excellent horseman growing up on one of the Spencer farms because his rank as Private in the Civil War included his classifications as Farrier, Teamster and Blacksmith. Audrey Mae’s great-granddaughter, Jessica, a university student, following in the Spencer tradition, is also and excellent rider.