The young couple wed at Jehovah Lutheran Church, Snelling and Thomas avenues, St. Paul. Photo courtesy Steve Williams


“Skipper” Spencer, the beloved conductor on the old University of Minnesota trolley (see the December 2016 issue of the Park Bugle) was known to take an interest in his student passengers, learning their names and keeping tabs on how their studies were progressing.

And now we learn that, on at least one occasion, he played matchmaker as well.

Steve Williams of Yorba Linda, Calif., recounts that his mother, Helen Gallaher, grew up in St. Paul’s Midway and majored in home economics at the University of Minnesota. His father, Donn Williams, a native of Price, Utah, was enrolled there as well, studying engineering.

The multi-faceted Skipper Spencer. Photo courtesy University of Minnesota Archives

“One day, sometime in 1941 or 1942, Skipper came up to my father and said he had a young lady that he wanted him to meet,” says Williams. “They went on a date and eventually decided to marry, which they did in December 1943.”

By then, Donn Williams had already enlisted in the military service and during World War II had a series of postings stateside. The young couple lived for a time with Helen’s parents, who had moved into a new home on Idaho Avenue in what would soon become Falcon Heights.

After the war, the couple settled in Fullerton, Calif. Donn held a series of jobs with steadily increasing responsibilities in the aeronautics industry, eventually heading Rockwell International’s electronics group. Helen was a homemaker, served on the local school board and did charity work.

Steve Williams noted that his mother died in 1988. Donn Williams, now 96, has since remarried and lives in Moorpark, Calif.


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