Schenectady County

Spraragen remembered as quiet benefactor

Funeral services will be held on Tuesday for Lawrence Spraragen, president of Schenectady Hardware &
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Funeral services will be held on Tuesday for Lawrence Spraragen, president of Schenectady Hardware & Electric Co. Inc. and a community philanthropist, who died Friday at the age of 61.

Spraragen was the third in his family to lead the company, which grew into one of the largest electrical contracting firms in the region. He was also a philanthropist who donated without fanfare to Proctors and Ellis Hospital, among many other causes.

Brother-in-law Tom Connors noted there is a plaque in Ellis Hospital’s emergency room bearing the names of Spraragen and his wife, Sheila.

“He wasn’t the kind of guy who bragged about giving money away,” Connors said. “He tried to be discreet about it. He was an electrician who worked his way up through the ranks.”

Spraragen worked as an electrician for the family-owned company since 1970. In 1993, he became president and chief executive officer of Schenectady Hardware & Electric, SHE Lighting and American Supply Co.

The company maintained a location on Albany Street for about 75 years. In 1998, it moved its administrative offices and contracting division to the first floor of the Edison Plaza at 155 Erie Blvd., while maintaining the retail space on Albany Street until closing it in 2001.

It also spun off a Clifton Park retail store called SHE Electric and a property management company. The contracting division’s most recent projects included the renovation of the Proctors complex and the state’s Alfred E. Smith building in Albany.

Connors said Spraragen had a passion for business.

“He was a man who demanded, commanded and earned respect. He would give it back if he felt you earned it too,” he said. “He was a no-nonsense type of guy. He liked to get the core of the matter — whatever it was — deal with it and move on to other things. He was an excellent executive.”

SHE Electric manager David Bloomer, who worked for Spraragen for almost 25 years, said he was more of a mentor than a boss to him. He said Spraragen was an “incredible” guy once people got to know him.

“It’s a great loss, truly. It’s a little overwhelming, everything that’s happened. I knew he was sick, but I didn’t expect this,” he said.

Bloomer said Spraragen liked donating to charity, whether it be contributing to Pop Warner leagues or sponsoring a team in the summer Jerry Burrell basketball league.

“He’s just involved in a lot of things and never was doing things out of recognition. To him, it was the right thing to do,” he said. “A lot of people look for the glory, [but] that wasn’t him.”

Bloomer said Spraragen also enjoyed being with his family and said they used to get together around the holidays in Florida.

Former Schenectady mayor Al Jurczynski said he was “shocked” by Spraragen’s death, especially at a young age. He said that Spraragen’s business — and the man himself — maintained a low profile.

“I don’t think many people in Schenectady knew of the magnitude of the business they had,” he said. “I was always amazed that a business of that magnitude existed on Albany Street.”

Suzann Smart, executive director of the Ellis Hospital Foundation, said Spraragen made a generous gift in 2001 toward renovating the emergency department.

“He had a reputation for being committed to the community and to back up that commitment with his dollars,” she said.

Smart added that Spraragen was a community leader who “was extraordinarily generous and encouraged others to be as well.”

Connors said Spraragen also contributed to the Albany Medical Center Children’s Hospital. He donated his time in other ways including serving on an economic development board for the city and sitting on the board of trustees for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 236, Pension and Health Funds.

Besides his business and philanthropic work, Spraragen also enjoyed fishing and traveling. Connors said Spraragen had been ill suffering from an undiagnosed neurological problem.

Spraragen was a 1964 graduate of Linton High School and served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1970. Besides his wife, he is survived by six children and many nieces and nephews.

Calling hours are scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. today at the Jones Funeral Home at 1503 Union St. The memorial service will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the GE Theatre at Proctors.

Contributions in Spraragen’s memory may be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 5845 Richmond Highway, Suite 800, Alexandria, Va., 22303 or the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Financial Management Branch, Building 31, Room 8A34, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2540, Bethesda, Md., 20892-2540.

Categories: Schenectady County

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