Bob Spence (1943-2015)

A celebration of life ceremony will be held Saturday for Bob Spence, former manager of the Department of Energy’s Site Office at the Y-12 National Security Complex, who died last month at age 72.spence

The ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville. Spence’s family will receive friends before the ceremony, from noon to 1:45 p.m.

Spence, a native of Alabama who earned an engineering degree from Auburn University, came to DOE’s Oak Ridge Operations in 1974. He was a project engineer in DOE’s Engineering Division. Before coming to DOE, he worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Among his roles at DOE was oversight of the activities associated with development of the Portsmouth Gas Centrifuge Plant.

He became the site manager at Y-12 in 1985 and provided federal leadership in response to the  safety-related “stand down” in the mid-1990s. Many of the plant’s conduct-of-operations procedures had to be reviewed — and in some cases rewritten — before production activities could resume at the Oak Ridge plant. It was a difficult period for the Y-12 contractor and the federal team but one that ultimately led to improvements.

Steven Wyatt, public affairs chief for the federal team at Y-12, said Spence made meaningful contributions to the government operations.

““Bob Spence played a pivotal leadership role during a unique period in the history of Y-12,” Wyatt said. ” One of his most important contributions was his role in redefining federal oversight at Y-12.  As the DOE’s Y-12 Site Manager he oversaw the transition of Y-12 from its Cold War production mission to its key role in stockpile stewardship and other important national security missions.

“Bob was a real Southern gentleman who had an excellent rapport with his staff and contractor employees.  His passing is very sad to those who knew him and worked with him for many years.”

After retiring from federal service, Spence worked with Y-12 contractor teams from 2000 until an accident last year that led to his death.

Spence is survived by his wife, Barbara Spence, and children: Kimberly Fuller; Kelly Jones (and husband, Steve); Kenny Spence (and wife, Sandy); three sisters, and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a memorial gift to the Knoxville Christian Arts Ministry at Cedar Springs Presbyterian.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.