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Margaret Spence Bisbee AZ bowl

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American Art Pottery1 of 362Muncie Pottery -- overlooked by manyChocolate Brown Van Briggle Candlestick
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    Posted 2 months ago

    (86 items)

    The impossible to describe beauty of yet another crystalline ceramic by the Bisbee potter Margaret Spence. It is like a pool of water at the bottom. One day perhaps I’ll discover what happened to M Spence. I do know that she would be over a hundred years old now and eventually married Paul Bonart author of But We Said No (about the German Underground). More to be revealed as my late sister Radiann was wont to say.....Margaret and her husband Harold lived in Brazil as expats with Bertha and Paul Bonhart. Margaret and Paul married after the deaths of Bertha (also a ceramicist/sculptress) and Harold. They lived for a while in Berkely, eventually moving to Huntington Beach to be near Margaret's children/grandchildren.

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    1. carmenisacat carmenisacat, 2 months ago
      SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008. (copy/pasted from a blog dedicated to Margaret's husband and long time friend Paul Bonart).

      Some years ago Paul and Bertha Bonart were looking for someone to “house and dog sit” while they were on vacation, and I was looking for a place where I could get started on a dissertation. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and that first meeting blossomed into a friendship that I have treasured for many years. In time, Margaret, too, became a portion of that treasure.

      Lately I have come to know several people who have lived into their late nineties, and to my mind at least, their lives in each case seem divisible into distinct periods. That is certainly true of Paul. His long life was marked by distinct changes in geography, language and focus. He and Bertha once told me that their experience in the underground had led them to a decision: They would find ways to contribute to the political and cultural life wherever they lived, but they would not put down roots too deeply in any situation. Their Berkeley home was the place they lived the longest. But they never let those years of stability lead to stagnation. They welcomed new ideas and were willing to engage in political and philosophical discussions with anyone. Several times when they needed help with yard work, I recommended some of my students from Holy Names University. In each case an acquaintance that began with labor in the yard concluded with the young gardener being invited to conversations in the house.

      Paul’s life began in Germany, and he was clearly the product of the best that European education could offer at that time. His first language was, of course, German, but when he and Bertha left Germany they agreed to leave behind that language with its painful associations. They chose to learn and to speak the language of whatever country they were living in, even when they were alone together. That led to long periods of speaking Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish (with a Portuguese accent!), and English.

      Occasionally, Paul would refer to himself as an “old jail bird.” Years after the war he once tried to get his record expunged, but the representatives of German government refused, arguing that however one might evaluate the laws of that time, they were in fact the laws of the land, and he had in fact broken them. His “record” was a badge of honor in the minds of us who knew him. While he could joke about some of the episodes of his imprisonment, on the whole it was no laughing matter. He once said to me that if he had to face arrest, solitary confinement and imprisonment a second time he wasn’t sure he could do it. He certainly stood on moral high ground, and could be very forceful in argument. But for all that he was generally not arrogant. He respected the fact that there were at least a few in Germany who hated the Nazi movement but felt that they could not risk active opposition. When he and Bertha left Germany it was because they felt that in the years while Paul was in prison the Nazis had consolidated their power and their control over communications to the point where any form of public opposition would fail. It would simply and immediately be snuffed out before anyone could take notice.

      I heard many stories from the Bausch and Lomb years in both their Brazilian and New York phases. Characteristic of Paul’s creativity and technical competence is what occurred when I happened to mention that I was wearing new glasses. Paul asked for them, held them up to the light and read the prescription from the lenses, advising me to verify that what I had was identical with what the ophthalmologist had prescribed. It seems he had employed a number of strategies to open markets for B&L products in Brazil.. One was to offer to teach a course in writing eyeglass prescriptions for the Brazilian medical schools of that day. He spent many hours seated at the scope that calculates prescriptions, to the point where he could read the prescriptions back off the completed lenses. Bertha meanwhile was completing her university degree and then going on to art school. As I write this I can look up to see a copy of the poster she did for the 1985 Summer Festival at Robert Mondavi winery in Calistoga. The word “Jazz” runs down the length of the poster and the colors and movement of the dancer clearly evoke Brazil. After the years of risk and fear, Brazil must have been a healing refuge, but it was not a place of stagnation. The Bonarts and the Spences frequently went places as a foursome. Paul and Margaret Spence even entered (and won!) a samba contest in which most of the other participants were from the Brazilian Navy.

      When the Bonarts moved to Berkeley it was in order to participate in the cultural and political life of the Bay Area. At times their home was a center for music. At other times the focus was on political and philosophical discourse. I gave them a copy of my completed dissertation, mostly as a gesture of gratitude for their friendship. In surprisingly short order they phoned to tell me they had read it and to ask when I could come over for the discussion. They really had read it!

      I will miss them.

      -Margaret Campbell

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