In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Norma Jean “Jeannie” Spear, 91

Norma Jean Spear, 1929-2020

Norma Jean “Jeannie” Spear, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among Southeast Asian Affinity Peoples in Thailand, died Oct. 7, 2020, at her home in Shawnee, Okla. She was 91.

She was born Aug. 21, 1929, in Shattuck, Oklahoma, to the late Joseph Reuben and Lena Belle Grayson Butler. She lived in several places in Oklahoma and Missouri growing up and graduated from Escondido (Calif.) High School. She received the Bachelor of Science from Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee.

At OBU, Spear was vice president and later president of the Young Women’s Association, among those named to Who’s Who, and homecoming queen.

Spear wrote when seeking missionary appointment, that she was active in the missions organization Girls’ Auxiliary (now Girls in Action and Acteens) while growing up, becoming a leader for younger GAs in her church while in high school. She also worked in GA camps throughout Oklahoma with her older sister. Through the years, she had a growing sense that God might be calling her to missions, a feeling she shared with the man she was dating, Bobby Lee Spear.

She married Spear on Aug. 26, 1951, in Escondido and they studied at New Orleans Theological Seminary.

The Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed the Spears missionaries to Thailand in 1954. When they arrived, Southern Baptist work there was only five years old. The Spears served there 38 years, working in Bangkok, Chonburi, Ayudhya, Nakorn Nayoke, Pattalung and Krabi, before retiring in 1993. Drawing on her own youth, she started the first GA group in Thailand.

Spear home educated her four children in grades 1-7, learning and adapting to Thai culture and language in remote regions.

Spear was a member of First Baptist Church, Shawnee.

She was preceded in death by daughter, Karen Spear. She is survived by her husband of 69 years, Bob Spear of Shawnee; children Linda M. Robertson (Michael), missionary in Siberia, Steven F. Spear (Crystal), minister in Henderson, Nevada, and Cheryl J. Wilson (Daniel) of Tecumseh, Oklahoma; 17 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.

Services were held Oct. 12, 2020, at First Baptist Church, Shawnee with burial Oct. 13, at the Akins (Okla.) Cemetery.

Donations in her memory may be made to the International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at

Read an obituary here.