What is the Spenser Somers Foundation
The Spenser Somers Foundation was established on November 9, 2000, exactly ten years to the day that our friend Spenser left this world. Spenser's life was shortened by Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET), a rare form of cancer. He was 18 years old when he died. During his short life, Spenser touched many with his wisdom, humor, and spirituality. In honor of his life and of his ever-present spirit, a group of Spenser's high school classmates started the Spenser Somers Foundation.
"Life, of course, is too short . . . smiles, however, never last long enough." - Spenser Somers
Spenser was born in Kansas City in 1972. He spent his childhood in Kansas along with the shore of Lake Quivira and in the countryside of Ottawa. In the summer of 1984, Spenser's family moved to Edina, Minnesota where he began the seventh grade.
The transition to a new school was made easier by Spenser's athletic ability. The "new kid" became an all-star baseball player and a leading scorer on the traveling basketball team. His love of sports, quick wit and Kansas accent helped Spenser quickly make new friends.
The smooth transition lasted less than a year. In June of 1985, Spenser was itching a mosquito mite on his stomach when he found a lump. He was diagnosed with Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET), a rare form of cancer. On July 1, Spenser's spleen and part of his stomach were removed along with a malignant cancer tumor. It was the first of many surgeries, procedures and treatments he would endure over the next 5 years.
While the cancer slowly ate away at him physically, Spenser flourished mentally and spiritually. "Once you are at peace with God, peace with your fellow man comes, as well as, peace with yourself." he wrote.
Spenser confronted his disease just as he would a stranger on the street - with a smile and a sense of humor. When chemotherapy caused his hair to fall out, Spenser simply sang out loud and changed the lyrics of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" to "Living with No Hair".
In addition to his faith, writing became Spenser's salvation. His thoughts poured into journals and notebooks and onto countless scraps of paper. He would often write late into the night, sometimes by candlelight, much to the annoyance of his dad who was worried he would burn the house down.
His humility and humanity endeared Spenser to everyone who met him. In his senior year at Edina High School Spenser was elected Homecoming King. He was selected as the "most respected person" in the senior class and nominated to deliver a commencement speech at graduation. In his speech, Spenser used the analogy of life as a highway and told the overflow crowd at Braemar Arena that "Once we stop looking up the road for satisfaction and start looking around for it, that is when it will come."
With his health deteriorating, Spenser began his first semester at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota in the fall of 1990. He immediately felt at home and at peace on campus. He admired Lake Sagatagan and prayed in the Abbey Church. But, after the first week of class Spenser went home and would not return to campus.
Even though his stay at Saint John's lasted only one week, Spenser's appreciation of each day made his brief college experience one of the most fulfilling in his life. "It doesn't matter if I have tomorrow because I've had today. That's living, man."
Two month later, on November 9, 1990, Spenser passed away. He was 18 years old.
Spenser taught and inspired those he knew and those who knew of him. His insight and wisdom lives on through his writings while his spirit endures in many memories. As another writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once wrote, "It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." The profound effect of Spenser's life is now felt through the work of the foundation that bears his name.
SSF Board Members: