Gene Speer passed away peacefully at home on February 11, 2023. Born in Anderson, South Carolina, on June 2, 1953, Gene was always Gene, never his given Harold, nor Eugene. He was a talented artist, a generous teacher, and a warm, deeply kind man.
Gene loved making beautiful things and built a career in the arts. When he was a boy, his beloved grandmother gave him bottles of food coloring and let him play. Gene had vivid memories of the colors he brewed in cups of water and set in the sunlight. He loved color all his life, soaking up sunsets, finding joy in subtle purples and pinks, yellows and oranges.
Gene worked his love of color into his pottery, painting, and printmaking. He was a prolific artist, but so modest that one never knew all he had done. He earned his BA and MA from the University of South Carolina, where he later worked. He was proud of his role as a master printmaker at USC School of Art’s Atelier. He always had multiple projects underway and won multiple awards about which he never spoke. His most recent show was at the Rob Shaw gallery in November 2022.
With the love of his life, Caroline, Gene was an avid cook and gardener. Together, they toted hay bales to the side yard for planting vegetables and grew crops of tomatoes and dragon cucumbers so abundant that they fed half the neighborhood. They made new recipes and old favorites. They shared daily chores and joys, bringing laughter, art, and good food to one another for over fifteen years.
Gene was happiest when he was doing things for others. Of course, he had a pickup truck. He rarely said goodbye without offering, “let me know if you need anything”. He worked with the Commission for the Blind, teaching pottery, until his final summer. He loved animals, especially his sweet chocolate lab, Rip, and the cats he took in, despite his allergies. Animals loved him back: honeybees stopped by to sip from the saucers of sugar water on the porch; neighborhood dogs insisted on visiting Gene if he was out front; Frank, the feral white cat Gene tamed, kept an eye out for visitors.
Sitting on his porch after dark with Frank curled beside him, Gene loved to listen to the owls calling across the neighborhood at night.
He will be deeply missed by the love of his life, Caroline; his son, Eric (Tiffany) and granddaughter, Arina Speer; his brother, Jimmy and Mary Speer; niece, Marni; nephew Matthew (April); along with so many friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Gene’s grave side funeral will be held on Saturday, March 11th, at 1:00 pm at New Prospect Baptist Church Cemetery, 2503 Whitehall Rd, Anderson, SC 29625.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Congaree National Park, South Carolina State Museum, and the Humane Society of South Carolina (Columbia)
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