Remembering Rochester Art Teacher, Jo-Ed Spitzer

Jo-Ed Spitzer inspired people – students, family, and friends – to be creative and to enjoy making art. Many will remember Jo-Ed from Rochester Adams High or West Junior High. He was an art teacher with the Rochester Community Schools from September 1970 until June 2006. He passed away on his birthday at the age of 76 from complications with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Jo-Ed Spitzer Art Teacher with the Rochester Community Schools - Rochester Adams High School Yearbook Photo 1979

Jo-Ed Spitzer Art Teacher with the Rochester Community Schools – Rochester Adams High School Yearbook Photo 1979

Art Teacher

Jo-Ed was born in Detroit on June 28, 1941, and served as a Private in the U.S. Army from May 11, 1960 until August 30, 1962 during the Vietnam Conflict. He held a Master’s Degree and – besides working for the Rochester Community Schools for 36 years – he spent 10 years after retirement teaching jewelry classes through the Rochester Enrichment Department of the school system. He was also involved with the Arts & Apples Festival.

“I first meet Jo-Ed Spitzer in 1970, and we quickly became friends. Over the next 47 years, ‘The Spitz’ (as he was often called) influenced my life in many ways. A talented and creative soul who lived life on his terms – he made my life fuller because of our friendship,” said Bill Dwyer, Executive Director, Pontiac Creative Arts Center.

Lions Club Member

“I sponsored Jo-Ed into the Rochester Hills Lions Club (RHLC) in 1977,” said Keith Kennedy, Past District Governor, International Association of Lions Clubs. “Jo-Ed served in all club offices including president and he served as secretary from the late 1990s to 2008. He also chaired our annual art auction fundraiser … Jo was a dedicated Lion and was an absolute delight to be around.”

“He always volunteered to participate in our annual White Cane and December Christmas fundraisers, which involved standing for 2-4 hours in front of local businesses seeking cash donations from the public,” said Kennedy, “This often meant standing in frigid temperatures and inclement weather.”

Besides working together with the Lions Club, Kennedy and Spitzer were longtime friends. “I have known Jo since the late 1960s … we were kindred spirits,” said Keith, who explained how Jo helped him quit smoking. Jo-Ed was a strong-minded individual who also gave up smoking (and drinking) “cold turkey” some 15 years ago. “Jo was just fun to be around and a truly great friend,” said Kennedy, “I am very much going to miss him.”

Jo-Ed Spitzer in his Home Jewelry Studio - photo by William Dwyer

Jo-Ed Spitzer in his Home Jewelry Studio – photo by William Dwyer

Family Moments

Lynette Douglas, stepdaughter, describes Jo as an “amazing grandfather” and recalls how he loved to celebrate Easter and Christmas. Using his art talents and creative mind, Jo would hold Easter egg hunts for the grandkids with “captain’s clues” to find the best prizes. He loved themed parties; and for his grandchildren he would incorporate their interests, such as cheerleading or pirates, to create a memorable experience for the kids.

Lynette’s mother, Arlene, and Jo-Ed were together for 30 years. Arlene Spitzer passed away in July of last year after celebrating their 20-year wedding anniversary in April. They lived in Auburn Hills and enjoyed the company of their family, friends, and their dog Max. Jo also survived and – he wasn’t expected to live then – beat cancer a few years ago.

“Coffee and sweets” would brighten Jo’s day said Lynette. She and her husband Kurt kept a close eye on Jo. Soon after Arlene passed, Jo’s health declined. He spent the last few months as a resident of Sunrise Senior Living in Downtown Rochester.

Jo-Ed is survived by his children Lynette Rose (Kurt) Douglas, Jon Scott (Kelly) Spitzer, John (Laura) Riley and Mike (Mary) Riley; his grandchildren Jessica, Brandon, Scotty, Nikki, Shannon, Michael, Brooke, Erin, Grace, and Katie; his siblings Dwight (Anne) Spitzer and Dean Spitzer; his brother in law Kenneth Novack; and his niece Lanie Novack.

Jo-Ed and Arlene Spitzer - photo by William Dwyer

Jo-Ed and Arlene Spitzer – photo by William Dwyer

Remembering Jo-Ed Spitzer

A Memorial Gathering will be held Friday, July 14, from 5:30-7:00 p.m. with the Memorial Service beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Pixley Funeral Home, 322 W. University Drive, Rochester, MI 48307

In lieu of flowers, please make Memorial Contributions to Leader Dogs for the Blind, PO Box 5000, Rochester, MI 48307

About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at


  1. What a beautiful article and tribute to Jo, Michael! I will never forget him. He was such an influence on my life in the arts and on life in general! Thank you so much for writing about him and keeping his memory alive!
    Sydney Ann Zaremba

  2. Spitz was a good guy. I had him in art class at Adams. (78) He also taught both of my children at West middle school . RIP Mr. Spitzer. Joel Hunsanger

  3. Anne Redmond says

    I still have fond memories of the the independent art class I took…and the mediums he exposed me too….sculpture, watercolors, jewelry making, and batik. Quite the free spirit. RIP Mr. Spitzer.
    Anne Lenart-Redmond (78)

  4. Chris bruner says

    Great tribute to Joe. I was a student in his class and Adams High School back in the 70s. What a guy. Straight A student I was. He was a great teacher and inspiration, and today I’m still making jewelry in my spare time as a hobby, and I have things that I wear that I made in his class. We actually became good friends.

  5. I remember Mr. Spitzer in art class and I remembered how he would always make a smile and crack jokes. Two years ago I was fortunate to see him come into my work with his truck for repairs. And as soon as he walked in I knew who it was I went up to him after 30 some odd years. I get my great big hug, he was still the same person as it was 30 years ago.

  6. Curtis R Weatherly says

    I remember him attending a couple of our party’s in the neighborhood, always welcomed and enjoyed! Even partaking in the various libations enjoyed by all! Not to mention in school, anyone carrying a toilet seat in the hall no questions asked.
    RIP Mr Spitz

  7. Marshall says

    I remember his art class everybodys favorite art teacher. Great spirit.

  8. Chris Liles says

    I am so sorry to hear that Mr. Spritzer has died. I worked at West while he was there, and he was the most unflappable person I’ve ever met. Nothing, and no one could bother him. He was a great guy, and anyone who had him for a teacher was very lucky.

  9. Shana Gagnon says

    Mr. Spitzer was a very cool art teacher. I was always intimated in art class, and I remember he never made me feel stupid and he had that way of making students feeling like they were capable. That they could do it. He was a good teacher and he was his own unique person and just a great character. He was the real deal. He will will be missed very much. My condolences to his family and friends.

    Sincerest Regards,
    Shana Gagnon ????☝️

  10. Thank you for all these stories of how my dad influenced you all. Special thanks to Michael Dwyer for writing the article. It’s exactly how he would like to be remembered.

  11. Mr. Spitzer is one of the major reasons I am in the Fine Arts professions today. I vividly remember his classroom, the projects we did and his energetic personality. He’d always take a sip of coffee and say “Ahhh….Now that’s good Coffee….”. He was very inspirational and always encouraging. He will be missed.


    Todd Larson

  12. Claudia Keglovitz says

    I had the honor of having Mr. Spitzer for art at Adams High School 79 – 81. He was always believed in every kid in class – there was no “exclusive club”. His warm, funny and accepting spirit made his art room a safe place to create and build relationships. I loved getting him to tell us stories of his life – especially about meeting the band members of Pink Floyd ( true or not)
    More importantly Spitz was a fantastic listener; he would hear out my questions about art and dumb teenage girl questions – Thanks for that Jo ….
    I ran into Mr. Spitzer at West Middle School a number of years ago when I was subbing. He was the same awesome guy I knew in school. He grinned when I told him I was an art teacher looking for a job. I’ve been teaching art for 26 years at Clarkston Junior High School! I have artwork hanging in my classroom that I did in Spitz’s class for examples!
    Thanks for your inspiration Mr, Spitzer – I will always remember you!

    Peace and Comfort to the family and friends,

    Claudia (Carlson) Keglovitz (Class of 81)

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