In memory of
BERNADINE JOAN SPANJERS WINTER HAVEN - Bernadine 'Bennie' Jo "BENNIE" January
BERNADINE 'BENNIE' JOAN SPANJERS WINTER HAVEN - Bernadine 'Bennie' Joan Spanjers was born on January 28, 1929, in Minneapolis, MN. Bennie passed peacefully into our Lord's arms on December 10, 2020, at her home in Winter Haven, FL. She was the daughter of Anna and Stanley Sentyrz (both deceased). Bennie was their youngest child, growing up in Minnesota along with four siblings: Joseph John Sentyrz; Walter B. Sentyrz; Stephanie Gawron and Frank E. Sentyrz (all deceased). On November 9, 1948, she began 71 years of wonderful married life with Arnold 'Doc' J. Spanjers, Jr., M.D., a marriage that was only interrupted recently by the passing of her true love on February 17, 2020. When Doc and Bennie first met, she was a cheerleader at the University of Minnesota. Her college education was put on hold when she married Doc. Shortly thereafter, they started their family of three children, Arnold J. Spanjers, III, M.D., Craig M. Spanjers, J.D. (Gloria), and Mary S. Gardner, M.D. (Ed). Activities at St. Joseph School, swim meets and horse shows filled most of Bennie's spare time with her children. As her children grew and needed less of their mother's time, Bennie began an 'epic' journey of service to the state of Florida and to her community. Along the way, Bennie found time to return to college in order to finish her postponed education. She earned her bachelor's degree at Florida Southern College in 1976 with a 4.0 average, summa cum laude. Bennie's ground-breaking journey of service included: PUBLIC SERVICE Â· Substitute Physical Education Teacher Winter Haven High School 1967 (fitness and running became the mainstay for our entire family after this) Â· Polk County School Board 1976-80 - elected (first Republican elected in the county since Civil War) Â· Florida School Board Association Â· National School Board Association Legislation Chairman Â· National School Board Association Federal Relations Network Â· Florida Department of Education Migrant Education Task Force - 1977-80 (Appointed by Education Commissioner Ralph Turlington) Â· Region V Advisory Council to Department of Corrections (appointed by Governor Reubin Askew) Â· Florida Ethics Commission 1981-85 (appointed by Governor Bob Graham) Â· Task Force For Future of Florida Family (appointed by Governor Bob Martinez) CIVIC/VOLUNTEER SERVICE Â· Future Nurses Club Polk County - Founder Â· Polk County Medical Auxi1iary - President 1960-61 Â· Florida Medical Auxiliary - President 1970-71 Â· Florida Drug Abuse Program Â· PRIDE of Polk County - Co-founder and President Â· TURNAROUND - Adolescent Drug Rehabilitation Program Board Â· Tri-County Addictions & Rehabilitation Services Board (Florida & Polk County) Â· Teacher Education Drug Programs Consultant Â· Florida Informed Parents - President Â· United Way of Central Florida - Board & Campaign Chairman Â· Lake Region Yacht & Country Club - Commodore (first woman to ever be selected for this position) HIGHLIGHTS Â· Banker's Cup Woman of the Year 1979 Â· Florida Southern College Alumni Humanitarian Award 1979 Â· Florida School Boards Legislation Award 1978 & 1979 Â· Florida Professional Health Education Award 1980 Â· Florida Medical Association Political Action Committee Award 1980 Â· George Jenkins Award United Way Volunteer of the Year 1990 Â· Girls, Inc. Julie Pope Award 1993 Bennie's proudest achievements were her four amazing grandchildren (which earned Bennie the name 'Big Mama'): Courtney Spanjers Dewey (Jon), Joey Spanjers, Brad Gardner (deceased) and John Gardner (Vanessa). In the past few years, she was blessed by the birth of two great grandchildren: Asher Craig Dewey and Everly Claire Dewey. Bennie was an active, devout Catholic throughout her life. She joined St. Joseph Parish in Winter Haven when the family moved to Florida in 1957. After the founding of St. Matthew Parish, she became a member there where her ministry was laundering and ironing altar linens. She was a Cursillista. 'Big Mama' Spanjers made a difference, and she did it her way. Funeral arrangements have been delayed by the pandemic which affects the ability of family members to gather from around the country. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Matthew when travel and safety will allow. In lieu of flowers, the family would ask that a donation in Bennie's name to be made to The Humane Society of Polk County, 3195 Dundee Road, Winter Haven, FL 33884 (863-324-5227).
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