Chapel Hill: Obituaries

Dirk J. Spruyt

Arcadia Cohousing — Dirk Jacobus Spruyt, 91, died peacefully in his home surrounded by family and friends.He leaves his wife, Perry Martin; sons, Fric (wife, Nancy), Chris, Peter (wife, Sally), and Alan (wife, Karina); grandchildren, Jacob (mother, Faith) and Harper; many nieces and nephews, among other family and close friends.Born in San Francisco, son of Frederik and Antoinette Spruyt, Dirk grew up in California, Holland, Washington, Long Island, Massachusetts and Vermont. He moved to Chapel Hill with his first wife, June (dec.), and sons in 1967.In his youth, Dirk enjoyed camping and boating with his family, secret night bike rides with his siblings, Kee and Harry, and jumping off a roof with an umbrella, inspired by Mary Poppins. At 12, Dirk’s family moved to Trap Rock Farm in Deerfield, Mass. He became a boarder at Putney School, Vt., where he enjoyed a mix of academic and hands-on farm work, and also became an accomplished cellist. After graduation, he served in the Navy (Pacific), and was part of post-bombing survey teams in Tokyo and Nagasaki. During his college years at Swarthmore (’46-’50), he volunteered in Belgium and on a Navajo reservation. He earned an MD from Univ. of Rochester (’54) and then went to Dartmouth for surgical and general practitioner residencies. Dirk met his first wife, June, an art teacher and avid folk dancer, in Hanover, and in 1956 they moved to Warren, N.H., where Dirk ran a small medical clinic, often receiving food for payment. The couple moved to Syracuse for a public health residency, which led to enrolling in the Harvard School of Public Health in 1959. After earning an MPH, Dirk and his family moved to Ethiopia, where he and his medical team traveled for six years, providing primary health care from a mobile tented clinic and studying the impact of rural health services. In 1967, Dirk began teaching at UNC School of Public Health, often riding his tandem bike to campus and returning with a friend for lunch. His most satisfying job was in the Chronic Disease Branch, NC Div. of Health Services (’77-’81). From 1982 until retirement, he worked with EDS Federal and then the DHS Division of Facility Services.Before and after retiring, Dirk was very active with Chapel Hill Quaker Friends Meeting, Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sister Cities (Saratov, USSR), military tax awareness/resistance and environmental sustainability efforts, Orange County Board of Elections, and Schoolhouse of Wonder at the Eno.He also found time for trips across the US and Canada with his family, Chapel Hill International Folk Dance, gardening, home renovations and additions, restoring old VW’s and Volvos, The Exchange Pool board, and helping many people along the way. Even in his mid-80s, he rode his bicycle day and night, regardless of weather conditions. Dirk’s life was the embodiment of thinking globally and acting locally. He will be missed. Plans for a memorial service TBD (spring 2017). As an expression of sympathy, you may make a donation to Chapel Hill Friends Meeting or Chapel Hill Inter-Faith Council.