Hair razing support

30 November

Simpson College senior Joe Cummings was away from his hometown of Maxwell on his birthday, but he still got his favorite dessert – butterscotch brownies – thanks to Becky Spencer, the cook at his fraternity.

Spencer, 50, has cooked lunch and dinner for the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house nearly every day for 10 years, often taking special menu requests.

“Becky’s like our mother, in a way,” Cummings said. “We all look up to her. She’s always there to give us advice, feed us and provide a good ear.”

That’s why the ATO brothers were among the first to step up with a helping hand when Spencer was diagnosed with brain cancer in October.

On Oct. 9, Spencer had a seizure “out of the blue,” and wound up in the hospital, where doctors found tumors in her brain – brain cancer due to melanoma.

Two weeks of radiation therapy cost her most of her hair, so 11 of the 37 ATO chapter members shaved their heads in solidarity.

“When we found out she was sick, two days later someone proposed it as a joke – they said, ‘If you lose your hair out of this deal, we’ll shave our heads too,’ ” said Quinn Albrecht, a newly-shaved senior from Dunkerton. “Well, she lost her hair, so one of the guys got out the shears last weekend.”

Spencer’s cook job doesn’t carry health insurance, so the fraternity brothers donated $700 in proceeds from homecoming T-shirts to help her with medical bills. They’ve also raised money – $200 as of last week – by selling cans and bottles recovered from the residence hall trashcans.

Spencer, an Indianola native, has also drawn the support of community members outside of Simpson College.
People turned out in droves Nov. 16 for a benefit dinner at Crouse Cafe. Leaders from A&W Drive-In and Funaro’s Deli and Bakery contributed meal supplies, raffle prizes and other support for the benefit.

“She’s just like family,” said Greg Funaro, co-owner of Funaro’s. “She helps out in the shop whenever we need her.”

Spencer’s mother, Sandy Holmes, fought back tears as old friends and neighbors offered their hugs and sympathy.

“It’s just overwhelming,” said Holmes, who grew up in Indianola and moved to Urbandale in 1978. “There are people here I don’t even know.”

Next on the fundraising agenda: A privately organized “Bar hop for Becky,” sponsored by former neighbor Alicia Funaro.

Bar hoppers will pay $20 – or $15 for Simpson students – to participate in drink specials at several bars from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, on the Indianola Square. The proceeds from ticket sales, and a portion of drink costs, will go to pay Spencer’s medical bills, said Alicia Funaro.

“I’ll be there, drinking Pepsi,” Spencer said.

The totality of Spencer’s medical bills is not yet known, but she believes the fundraisers will cover a large part of her costs.

“The support of everybody in town has been amazing and I want to do a huge ‘Thank You’ to everyone,” Spencer said. “It’s so hard to go through, but everyone’s support and thoughts and prayers have been overwhelming.”

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