BOARDMAN — Vanda Spence Knickerbocker, 53, lost her battle with brain cancer as her husband held her hand and prayed with her Tuesday afternoon, June 15, 2021.
Vanda was born Oct. 19, 1967, in Colchester, England, the daughter of Frank and Ann Gibbons Spence. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the Royal Northern College of Music of the University of Manchester in 1990 and became the first woman member in the 100-year history of the renowned International Staff Band of The Salvation Army in London. Vanda immigrated to the United States in March 1993 to be the principal trombone and soloist for the New York Staff Band.
Vanda and Dave became pastors soon after marriage. Vanda’s joy was in serving the homeless in the Soup and Salvation program on Sunday afternoons in north Philadelphia, when she would minister to the neediest of the Kensington neighborhood. She knew them by name and often greeted them on the streets with hugs. In 2007, they launched The Gate Church in Columbiana. Their dream was to start a church for people who struggled to relate to God in a church with a building and sought to build a missional community church that met in homes and had no paid pastor or staff.
Vanda always had desired to work in a library and for 13 years was a librarian in the Mahoning Valley, mostly at Newport Library in Youngstown. She developed a strong connection with the staff and patrons and spoke often about the fun she had while working there. A few weeks before Vanda’s cancer diagnosis in April 2019, she completed training as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children. This was her God-given ambition she was not able to fully realize due to cancer. She celebrated 25 years of sobriety from alcohol abuse in October.
Vanda leaves behind her husband, Dave; daughters, Jessica and Emma; son, Zachary; and sister, Samantha; along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
She was preceded in death by her mother, Ann, in 1997; and her father, Frank, who passed earlier in the same day as Vanda.
Family and friends may pay their respects at 11 a.m. during calling hours Friday, June 25, 2021, followed by a celebration of her life at 1 p.m. at the Rossi and Santucci Funeral Home, 4221 Market St., Boardman.
In lieu of flowers, donations to CASA of Mahoning Valley can be made in Vanda’s name on the website.
Vanda’s family would like to express gratitude to the staff of The Cleveland Clinic, Hospice of the Valley, Patriot Home Care, and friends who helped with travelling and care during Vanda’s cancer treatment: Steve and Cathy Lewis, Dan and Elaine Lewis, Stephanie Boggs, and Vanda’s best buddy, Cyndi Hickman.
Family and friends may visit www.rossisantuccifh.com to view this obituary, sign the guest book and send condolences to Vanda’s family.