"Shocked" courthouse staff at work Monday

Grieving loss of Clerk of Court
Feb. 18, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Flags are flying at half mast at the Rutherford County Courthouse in memory of Clerk of Court Robynn Spence, 46, who died Sunday at Mission Hospitals in Asheville after a brief illness.

The mood inside the courthouse Monday morning was somber.  Her staff huggedone another wondering how to go on and other courthouse employees kept shaking their heads, "So shocking," one employee said.

"We'll go on because that's what Robynn would want," District Court Judge Laura Powell said.

Powell and District Attorney Brad Greenway addressed  courthouse staff, county officials, friends and family members of Spence as the business day began.

"We needed a prayer meeting because we needed God's help to move on," Greenway said. "We have all had a very shocking, very sorrowful weekend."

The front entrance and the hallways leading into other courthouse offices were filled with mourners including county staff and law enforcement officers. 

A wreath of fresh flowers featuring Spence's favorite color — orange — was in the center of the hall. 

Powell began her words on behalf of the courts, "It is unbelievable we are here. Robynn had a larger than life personality . . .That is why is it so hard to believe.

Robynn made everyone feel special to her. She knew about you and your family and what was happening in your life."

Powell said Spence was generous with her money, time and her love, "maybe to a fault."

Spence expected others to live up to their responsibilities and Spence called "you on the carpet if you didn't," Powell said.

"But she always had our backs. We loved her and depended on her," Powell said.

She said the next few hours, days, weeks and months will be tough around the courthouse and in life.

"We need to get through them together and honor her by doing it with dignity," Powell said. "For better or worse, Robynn loved this place. She knew us all and we were her close friends. She made us all feel like we were her friends. "Her 46 years were not enough, but I am a better person for knowing her."

Prayers were said by the Rev. Chris Beebe, rector of the St. Francis Episcopal Church in Rutherfordton, and friends joined in singing, "My Chains Are Gone, I've Been Set Free" and "Amazing Grace."

As the ceremony concluded, staff stopped by the memorial table where they wrote comments, looked at photographs and reflected on Spence.

Her office door was closed and at the top it was an orange bow.

Greenway wore orange tie and most other attorneys in the courthouse wore bright orange ribbons on their lapels. Her staff also wore orange and ribbons.

The Administrative Office of the Courts informed the courthouse staff, "you have to stay open," Powell said. 

An interim clerk will be named this week by Resident Superior Court Judge Tommy Davis. (See related story). 

Lisa Smith, the assistant clerk who manages the estates and special proceedings spoke on behalf of the clerks. 

"We are shocked. We didn't know she was that ill," Smith said.

"She created this team of people here and we will keep serving the people of Rutherford County. She was strong for us and we will be strong for her."

Spence was elected Clerk of Court in 2008 and re-elected in 2010 and 2012. 

One week ago Monday on Feb. 10,  she arrived at the Board of Elections office in Spindale to file for re-election. 

She was not feeling well on Monday and was concerned she might have the flu, she stayed in her vehicle until it was time to file. She said she filed for re-election because she loved her job and wanted to help the people of Rutherford County.

Spence did not work last week as her condition worsened.

She tested negative for the flu but complications of an upper respiratory infection and pneumonia progressively worsened.

She was admitted into Rutherford Regional Hospital's intensive care unit  on Friday night. Saturday she was airlifted to Mission Hospitals in Asheville.

"The doctors didn't give much positive feelings," Powell said, who was at the hospital with a group of friends.

"But I kept saying, 'It's Robynn. She's not going to die. It's 2014. You don't just die," Powell quietly said, before going into the courtroom to hold court as Spence would have wanted.