Juanita Spencer

January 15, 1925 ~ May 17, 2022 (age 97)


          Juanita Spencer, 97, of Lakeway, Texas, relocated to heaven on May 17, 2022.

          Juanita was born January 15, 1925, in Angelina County, Texas, the daughter of the late Syble (Havard) Runnels, a master seamstress, and Townsend W. Runnels, a teacher and farmer.

          She grew up in Huntington but lived the majority of her life in Lufkin. Widowed at age 35 and the mother of two young daughters whom she needed to support, Juanita and her friend Lavonia Moore decided to go into business together. In 1961, they opened Lanita’s, a small fabric store tucked into a side room of Judson Center, Lufkin’s first major shopping center, which Juanita co-owned with Arthur Temple, Jr. and Judson Cowart.

          A sharp business woman and entrepreneur in the days when women were discouraged from being either, Juanita quickly grew their business and expanded it into women’s wear. No longer relegated to a side room, Lanita’s became an anchor store to Judson Center, as well as to the community of Lufkin. It’s where the ladies of the town gathered around its notorious roundtable for afternoon coffee, Keebler Pecan Sandies served on paper napkins, local gossip, and of course shopping, as Juanita reached for the perfect shoes and jewelry to go with that perfect outfit.

          When Juanita wasn’t showing the women those perfect outfits, she was sitting with them at the roundtable, meticulously tailoring their clothing, even down to the length of their sleeves. Lanita’s, and in particular Juanita, was known for superior customer service including shopping the Dallas Apparel Mart for that one special dress or fur for individual customers, home delivery, and exquisite handmade bows on Christmas packages. But it wasn’t just bows that Juanita made by hand. At night, after reading the Wall Street Journal and cooking dinner for her girls, she’d settle on the couch to hand bead evening gowns for customers who wanted a custom dress. Juanita was also known to open the store in the middle of the night for a grieving customer who needed clothes for a funeral or early Easter morning for a woman who needed stockings.

          Lanita’s became the city’s premiere women’s wear store, but a store with a customer base that spanned America, dipped into Mexico, and crossed the Atlantic to Europe.

          Once Juanita’s daughters completed their undergraduate degrees, she and Lavonia opened a second location, Lanita’s Too, at the then prestigious Lufkin Mall. As such, Juanita worked days at Lanita’s, nights at Lanita’s Too, and spent her spare time as a board member of Texas National Bank, including a stint as chairman of the board during the bank’s toughest years—calmly and fearlessly sitting down for coffee with the FBI and forcefully meeting with the Comptroller of Currency, always walking away with her integrity intact. “I’d rather be respected than liked,” she repeatedly told her daughters.

          While in Lufkin, Juanita was a member of First Baptist Church of Lufkin.

          At age 70, she retired and moved to Lakeway, Texas, to be closer to her family. There she became an active member of Lakeway Church, before becoming a founding and board member of White Stone Church. At the time of her death, she was a member of Austin Baptist Church.

          Juanita is survived by her daughters Siba and Suzy; sister Jeane McVicker; niece Kathy Squyres; nephews Robert and Noah McVicker; and Gabe Spencer, Siba’s lively Cocker Spaniel who would jump into Juanita’s lap just to make her smile.

          She was preceded in death by her husband Henry W. Spencer, sisters Vernell Rice and Townie Squyres, niece Kathleen Garner, nephew Ron Rice, and Jacob Waterman Spencer, the Cocker Spaniel Juanita “fell in love with the first time [she] saw him”.

          As Suzy wrote in her memoir Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, “In my family, my mother did everything—the cooking, the sewing, the minor plumbing repairs, the yard work, the making of the money, the budgeting, the investing, the saving for college and emergencies. She actually fulfilled the Old Testament description of a godly woman. And seeing how a woman could do anything and everything taught me to be ambitious, independent, and fearless. I could do and accomplish anything that God put in my heart ….”

          And so did Juanita.

          Shafer Funeral Home, Lufkin, directors.

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Graveside Service
May 24, 2022

1:00 PM
Garden of Memories
5205 S. 1st St.
Lufkin, TX 75901

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