Meet Mary Lou Spoto
Beauty queen at age 3…wife of an Naval intelligence officer who was the Naval Attaché to Sweden after service in the Vietnam War…onetime owner of a gift shop in Island Estates that has provided many items for NSA’s Bravura Brunch silent auction…a pianist and life-long lover of classical music, Mary Lou Spoto, a member of NSA since it was organized and a years-long patron of TFO, has lived what she is quick to call an active and exciting life. A stunning woman soon to celebrate her 90th birthday, Mary Lou was awarded first prize in the baby contest at the Strawberry Festival of her hometown, Plant City, when she was just three years old. In college at Florida State, she was a member of the choral union and light opera guild and toured with the groups. After her marriage to the late Victor Spoto, the two moved often, including to Stockholm, where Vic served as Naval Attaché.
“Music has always been a big part of my life,” she says. After Stockholm, the Spotos moved to Italy, where Vic was on the staff of the Sixth Fleet flagship. Mary Lou joined 11 other women singing and dancing with the Sixth Fleet Orchestra, celebrating the Bicentennial by performing across Europe by invitation.
Returning to Florida in 1980, the two became active supporters of TFO, the Clearwater Yacht Club (where Vic was Commodore), and other organizations. “For TFO, we did whatever they needed us to do: fundraising, stuffing envelopes, mailing invitations.” In an era before email, “We walked the streets telling people about TFO.” When NSA was formed, they joined right away. “This is for us for sure,” she recalls. “There are such dedicated, wonderful people to work with. NSA keeps the music flowing, the musicians playing, and showing our young people that music is important.” She still occasionally plays one of the baby grand pianos in her apartment building, which, conveniently, is next to Ruth Eckerd Hall. “I walk out the back gate and am at the front entrance.” The mother of three sons, grandmother to five girls, and now great-grandmother to an infant boy, Mary Lou has written a book about Vic’s and her lives “because the children ask so often.” A natural storyteller, discerning musician, and enthusiastic volunteer, Mary Lou is a delight for us all.