'Champion' activist and journalist Nita Spangler dies


Nita Reifschneider Spangler, who helped keep Almanac readers informed of San Mateo County matters as a reporter from 1969 to 1977, died on April 18, one day after her 96th birthday.

With her death, the county and Redwood City, where she lived, "lost a champion of education, open space, and historic preservation," her son, Jon Spangler, said in a written tribute.

Born in Ukiah, Nita Reifschneider moved to Reno, Nevada, with her family as a young child. She graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1944 with a journalism degree, her son said. That year, Redwood City Tribune editor Ray Spangler hired her as a general assignment reporter, and she covered city hall, the county courts, and the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco, Jon Spangler noted.

In 1946, Nita and Ray were married, and that event led to her dismissal from the Tribune, which had an anti-nepotism rule.

Before returning to work as a journalist at The Almanac, Spangler had three children — Jon, Mary and Thor — and while raising them was active in school issues and the preservation of parks, open space and historic sites. Active in the San Mateo County Historical Association and serving as its president for two years, she helped preserve Woodside's Tripp Store, Wunderlich Barn and the Sanchez Adobe in Pacifica.

Her coverage of county government for The Almanac ended "a year or so" after Mort and Elaine Levine bought the newspaper, "but she remained a vital source for us for decades," Mort Levine said after Spangler's death. "She would pop in to the office and everyone on the news staff would huddle round as she shared a burgeoning scandal among the supervisors or the latest environmental excess a (developer) wanted to slip through quietly."

Calling Spangler a "live wire," Levine added, "Her knowledge of county affairs was encyclopedic."

Spangler's efforts on behalf of protecting the environment included joining the campaign to halt the Bair Island development proposal by Mobil Oil, and helping to revise the Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve's master plan, which was instrumental in preventing a golf course from being installed there.

She was preceded in death by her husband Ray. In addition to her three children, she is survived by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service has been held. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations in her name be made to the University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism; the Peninsula Open Space Trust; or the Friends of Edgewood Park.

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