Friends of many years and places gathered at the end of 2011 to celebrate Flo Spanier’s 90th birthday. As usual, she was the life of the party. Flo’s children—Deanna, Noel and twins Tim and Tom, hosted the party at Rossmoor’s community hall. Noel, who lives with his family in New Zealand, joined in the festivities by videoconference on a large screen.
How different this telecommuting is from that of Noel's maternal great grandmother, during her immigration from Runeby, Sweden, when her husband and four children died aboard ship during the passage.
Flo (born Florence Roselle Anderson) was the middle of five children born to Ernest and Alida Maria Palm Anderson, of Linköpping, Sweden. Her mother had immigrated to Minneapolis in 1906, where she met and married Flo's father. He was a manufacturer of trunks for early cars before they were integrated into automobiles. Of course, once they were, his business died and during the Depression he moved the family to San Francisco in 1930, where he started Anderson Painting and Decorating, advertising himself as the “Minnesota Swede.”
At Everett Junior High School, classmate Helen Spanier introduced Flo to her brother, Joe, whom she married in 1940 in Daly City, a year out of high school. She was a beautician briefly before becoming a full-time mother in 1941 to Deanna, and three more children by 1946. The family was on the move in those days: first to Edgemar (now Pacific Manor, fronting the ocean in Pacifica) in 1947, to Burlingame from 1951-1967 where the kids grew up, back to San Francisco for a year, and then on to San Anselmo.
The family first came to Sveadal and joined Fylgia Lodge (VOA#119, San Francisco) in the 60s, later becoming active in Linnéa Lodge (VOA#504, Petaluma). They took an active role in their lodges and continue extended family vacations in Sveadal to this day. Flo and Joe were long-time, valued delegates to the Swedish American Patriotic League, which owns the Swedish resort community. Several granddaughters have been members of the Queen’s Court during Midsummer. Heidi has been chosen successively as Columbia, Svea and Queen, later being married there in 2004. Grandson Brook was given a grant by Linnéa Lodge to attend Concordia College’s Sjölunden Swedish language camp in northern Minnesota. In this he was following his grandmother’s lead, for Flo studied Swedish at UC Berkeley and visits Sweden frequently. After Joe died in 1998, Flo moved to Rossmoor, Walnut Creek in 2001 and became active in Sveaborg Lodge (VOA#449, Concord).
Flo is also noted as an artist in sculpture, ceramics, jewelry and various painting media. Every person attending her birthday party left with one of her sketches as a beautiful memento of the occasion. During her world travels she more frequently sketches than photographs. She developed her craft studying at the College of San Mateo, College of Marin, UC Berkeley, and workshops with prominent artists. Since 1993 she has served as Artist On Board for Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity cruise lines. During these worldwide cruises she has completed over 2,000 quick portraits of passengers. Her toastmaster’s experience has helped her in presenting her own art works and travels at Swedish clubs as well as in talks at the Commonwealth Club at the Ice Hotel and on the Örresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark.
Her birthday party provided an opportunity to reflect upon the many changes she has lived through during her 90 years. But far more remarkable than this span of history is that throughout this period Flo has lived life with zest and gusto: She remains evergreen. Her life with Joe, her arts and travels, her other passions and pursuits keep her vital and vibrant. She exemplifies the French term joie de vivre (joy of living). In this she is an example to all, for she has evidently drunk from the fountain of youth. All at her party joined in a toast that she might continue to quaff this elixir for many years to come and remain our bonne vivante.

~Ted Olsson