Posted By: Sarah Thorson Little (email)
Date: 9/19/2006 at 23:55:35
Hartzell Spence, 93, a best selling author born in Clarion, recently of Essex, Connecticut, died May 9, 2001, at his home. Spence wrote "One Foot in Heaven", a collection of more than 100 short stories about a Methodist minister and his family as they moved from town to town. Spence based the book on his own experience as the son of a Methodist clergyman. One Foot was named to the best seller list in 1941, and eventually was adapted to the silver screen in a movie starring Frederic March. Spence's father, William H. Spence, served the Methodist Church in Clarion from 1907-1909. Parson, as he was called, thought of himself first as a minister and second as a family man. He ruled with an iron hand. Hartzell Spence was born February 15, 1908, in Clarion. He graduated from the University of Iowa, Magna Cum Laude in 1930. He served as the Iowa bureau manager of the United Press Associate from 1930-1941. In 1963, Spence was named to the University of Iowa School of Journalism. Before finding success with his book, Spence received dozens of rejection letters from publishers. Finally, a friend suggested, why don't you write something you know best about? The result was "One Foot in Heaven". One Foot chronicles Parson's predicaments and his ingenious means of getting out of them. The congregation in the book is split into warring factions and the choir is described as a cross between the devil's grandmother and a swarm of mountain wildcats.
Spence's family moved from Clarion to Fort Dodge in 1909, where Parson served the Methodist Church there until 1917. The church was located next to the fire station, which caused a problem if the fire alarm sounded during his sermon.
In 1921, Parson acquired a Ford Model T and the family motored to Colorado for a vacation. During World War II, Hartzell Spence founded Yank magazine for the enlisted men. As executive editor of Yank, Spence championed pin-up girls and the comic strip Sad Sac. Spence received the Legion of Merit in 1945 for his services. In 1964, Spence wrote "Marcos of the Philippines" a biography of Ferdinand E. Marcos. During his lifetime, Spence authored more than 200 articles for publications including the Saturday Evening Post, Look, and Reader's Digest. "One Foot in Heaven" is available at the Clarion and Belmond libraries by making arrangements through the Iowa State Traveling Library.
Wright Obituaries maintained by Sarah Thorson Little.
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