Medical student Jacob “Jack” Spanier met his match on the beach in Charleston in 1954 when future wife Harriet made fun of his Yankee peg leg pants. Years later into marriage and children, and serving in the Navy, the Spaniers made their way to the Emory University-Grady Hospital program for a residency in obstetrics and gynecology.
Harriet recalled, “We didn’t know a soul in Atlanta and found it to be a welcoming, wonderful place. We settled in a house on Morningside (wish we still had that house) and joined Ahavath Achim Synagogue. We were poor during those days and our parents sent us care packages. The synagogue gave us a break on dues and Progressive Club dues were $8 a month. The best deal was Rich’s department store, which carried our credit account paying $20 a month with no interest. In 1958 that was wonderful!”
Before the cluster of medical facilities off Glenridge Drive at I-285, Spanier practiced at Georgia Baptist and Crawford Long hospitals. He notes that back then, a new mother stayed in the hospital six days, maybe eight for a C- section. He said, “In the 1960s, the whole delivery package cost $200 to $250. About $70 went to the hospital. Mothers were not encouraged to breastfeed as they are today. Some tried to deliver without out pain meds (today’s natural childbirth); some succeeded, some didn’t.”
A “not so great” memory was the anti-Semitism faced when Spanier applied for privileges at Piedmont Hospital. Harriet said, “They had one token Jewish physician, which was odd since it was founded by a Jewish person. Even then, the irony was a doctor might get to be on staff, but their patient couldn’t get a bed.”
One night at the Atlanta Cabana on New Year’s Eve, Jack fortuitously ran into another Jewish ob-gyn with whom he formed a private practice group.
Harriet, now 86, recounted that to follow their group of friends, they joined the Mayfair Club in Midtown. After that was destroyed in a fire, they frequented the Standard Club, where Jack golfed and she played tennis. Harriet was at the top of the fashion culture and worked for several years at Davison’s (now Macy’s) as a consultant by private appointment dressing the city’s glamorous doyennes. Often seen in Valentino, Dior or Sonia Rykiel, she said her fashion mantra still applies today, “I still wear what I think I look good in, not any particular designer; and we always wore high heels to look our best!”
Jack, now 91, is perhaps best known for being one of the founders of Northside Hospital in 1970 and serving as its chairman of the board. Harriet recalled, “One of my proudest moments was when he was honored by Northside at the Hotel Nikko (now the Grand Hyatt). Jack retired at 84 in 2014, 14,000-plus babies later.” His advice to prospective mothers, “Make sure you find a doctor with whom you can relate, trust and communicate, and be up front about everything that’s going on.”
Local fashion model icon and event planner Martha Jo Katz has known the Spaniers for over 52 years. “Harriet set fashion standards. She always looks impeccable and her flair from makeup to shoes and clothes shows her beautiful style.
“I was proud that Jack was honored for his years of service to Northside Hospital’s Wine Women & Shoes (2013) event that I chaired. Harriet always has him looking dapper! They make a trendsetting couple who are good inside and out.”
Interior designer daughter Amy said, “I spent my childhood never wondering why my parents were so busy. I knew. My dad was busy bringing life into the world! Delivering babies and taking extraordinary care of women. A lot of them! I’ve been lucky enough to actually meet many generations of people that he delivered.
“Mom was all about fashion and style, working while taking care of three energetic kids. I am grateful to have inherited my eternal optimism, kindness, creativity and perseverance from my parents.”
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Jack Spanier
- Senior Living
- Emory University
- Grady Hospital
- Ahavath Achim
- Glenridge Drive
- Labor and Delivery
- Piedmont Hospital
- Atlanta Cabana
- Mayfair Club
- northside hospital
- Grand Hyatt
- Martha Jo Katz