In Celebration of

The Reverend Diana Spencer

May 9, 1935 -  November 15, 2023

Passed away at home on November 15th, 2023. Predeceased by her beloved husband Francis; survived and missed by her son Philip, daughter-in-law Jessica, and grandchildren Ophelia and Annabel.

Diana was born in England in 1935. She was the first of four children, with two surviving sisters, Helen and Julia, and brother Nicolas, who passed away recently.

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 deeply impacted her early childhood. Because of the bombing in London, she, like her siblings and others of that generation, had to be shunted from school to school. During the last year of the war she and her siblings had no formal school at all, only learning at home from books. It wasn't until she was ten years old that she began a normal school education. She was, however, an avid reader with a love of stories, especially children's versions of the classics. During this time she taught herself more than many of her contemporaries who were able to stay in school.

From an early age she was drawn to the church and to theology, but in those days there was no opportunity in those directions for a young woman. Her school education ended at age 16, as her family decided it should be the boy who got the advanced education with its attendant costs. The path laid out for her was secretarial college so she could earn a living, which is what she did.

On attaining adulthood at age 21, she chose to move to Canada, to be farther from the trials of her upbringing. She started a new life in Toronto, still working as a secretary.
A few years later a family friend introduced her to a young man (well, early middle-aged man; he was 18 years her senior), Francis Spencer. He too was from England, a former officer in the British Army, who like many others in his circumstances had been demobilized after the end of the war and had moved to Canada seeking employment. He was a kind, gentle soul, not at all suited for the army, and somewhat of a disappointment to his stern and staunchly military father, a brigadier. However, his shy gentleness and kindness were very appealing to Diana, and he came from an impeccable family background: the well-known Spencer family of England. They began a courtship, and were married in May of 1962, when she was 27 and he was 45.

A few years later they moved to the west coast: Victoria, British Columbia, known as a good place for young married couples to settle and raise a family. In 1966 her son Philip was born, and she worked as the main provider for the family, as a secretary at the University of Victoria, eventually as the secretary to the Vice President, while Francis, because of the limitations inherent in being an ex-army officer with no other qualifications, took several night-watchman-type positions with the Corps of Commissionaires until being forced to retire early due to ill health.

During this time, she rekindled her interest in theology, taking several correspondence courses from the University of the South, an Episcopal college in Tennessee. She participated as a lay person in several key "Synods" (decision-making meetings of the Anglican church) where she stood up against several changes of doctrine she felt were surreptitiously being introduced into the newer modern-language forms of service.

Her opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of ordination came in 1985 when her son Philip left home for graduate school. This was, coincidentally, around the time the Anglican diocese in Victoria was just beginning to allow women to be ordained as priests. She left her job as a secretary in the University and became, instead, a student there, taking a one-year program to complete the education she'd been forced to abandon at age 16. (A headline in the University newspaper read: "Goodbye, Diana - Hello, Diana.") Following this, she moved temporarily to Saskatoon to complete a three-year seminary degree from the Anglican College of Emmanuel and St Chad, while Francis held down the fort at home in Victoria. She then returned to Victoria and became the second woman ever ordained as a priest in that Diocese, the first full-time female parish priest in the Diocese, and, to the best of her knowledge, the first woman to celebrate the Eucharist in the Cathedral in Victoria.

She was appointed to be in charge of St. John's Church in the town of Ladysmith, about an hour and half's drive north of Victoria. Sadly, after a few months, her husband Francis suffered a stroke in church during the Sunday morning service, and passed away two weeks later. He was 72.

Newly widowed, she faithfully led the congregation for seven years, until eventually retiring back to Victoria where she volunteered as an honorary assistant at several parishes and spent time writing a book intended to counteract some of the overly harsh teachings about God that she had encountered in her lifetime, and interweaving her understanding of a loving God with her own autobiographical journey.

In 2012, at the age of 77, she sold her home in Victoria and moved back to Toronto to live with her son and family. For several years she continued to work on, and completed, her book, and became an honorary assistant at the church of St. Olave's, where she was an active participant both in Sunday services and a weekly bible study group.

At the end of 2019, her health and mobility began to decline, culminating in a fall and subsequent 3-month hospitalization in 2021, after which she was mostly bed-ridden. However, a faithful rotation of caregivers provided for her needs every day until her sudden passing on November 15th, 2023.

She will be greatly missed, by the people she served and whose lives she touched, and by her son Philip, daughter-in-law Jessica, grandchildren Ophelia and Annabel, and her surviving sisters Helen and Julia, their families, and the family of her brother Nicolas who passed before her. She is also missed by her faithful companion, the family cat Blue Eyes, who was with her on her bed most days, and was, we believe, with her at the end.

She knew where she was going, and had carefully planned her funeral service with hymns and readings that reflected her longing for people to see a God of love and source of life. All are invited to this service:

Saturday, November 25th, 2023
St. Olave's Anglican Church
360 Windermere Avenue
Toronto, Ontario

Visitation in the church at 3pm
Funeral service at 4pm
Reception following, at the Turner and Porter Funeral Home next door

Directions are below. The service will be live streamed for those who are not in Toronto, especially her many friends in Victoria and family in England. The live stream, and later recording, can be viewed at - or you can just press the "LIVESTREAM" button below.

No flowers please. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to St. Olave's church:


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Kayreen Hippolyte (Friend of Jess' family)

Entered November 19, 2023 from Saint Lucia

A lovely soul. What great memories! May the memory of her be forever vivid in your hearts. Huggs to all of you.

Jim Sandford (family friend)

Entered November 20, 2023 from Squamish BC

Many fond memories from childhood in Victoria BC.

The future disappears into memory
With only a moment between
Forever dwells in that moment
Hope is what remains to be seen

Bert & Jeanette 

Entered November 20, 2023

Philip, Jessica, Ophelia and Annabel,
We are so sorry for your loss. We are praying for comfort and peace during this difficult time. May God grant you comfort as you mourn the loss of your mother and grandmother.

Keith and MJ Leewis (long time friends and Clergy Colleague)

Entered November 20, 2023 from Vancouver Island and Calgary AB

We shall miss our contact with Diana,
We are most thankful for such a long time family connection, since her marriage to Francis.
We give thanks for her life and the her positive take on the love of God.
Blessings and much love, to each of you her beloved family.

Gwen Demerse (nee Sandford) (family friend of my parents 1960's and onward)

Entered November 21, 2023 from Campbell River BC

Very fond memories growing up in Victoria and being friends with the Spencer family. Diana always has held a special place in my heart. She was a dear friend to my mother Mary Sandford.


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