Our loving patriarch, William Martin Spehar passed away peacefully on Monday, August 19, 2013, surrounded by his family. It is comforting to know that Bill is now with the love of his life, Suntina, whom he missed every day since her passing.
Bill was born to Michael and Mary (Bohar) Spehar in Duluth on May 27, 1923. “Willie” was the youngest of eight siblings, all of whom he admired very much. In return, his sister and six brothers were protective of Willie and taught him such important things as how to play hockey and baseball, grow a garden and how to work in the garage “fixing things.” Even in the midst of tough times, his brothers pitched in enough money to buy his prized childhood possession, a new 1937 Ranger bicycle which is still in the family. A strong Catholic faith and Slovenian heritage were a focal point of his family’s daily life. Growing up in New Duluth during the Depression presented hardship for the family and community but also served as an early influence on young Bill, who would later become a committed civic leader.
He attended Stowe School as a boy and graduated from Denfeld High School in 1942 with a great interest in mathematics and a dream of one day becoming an engineer. He began his college education at the Duluth Teacher’s College and was a graduate of the first class of the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1947 after serving in World War II.
Bill entered military service in 1943 at Fort Snelling and received his basic training at Camp Fannin, Texas where he was selected to attend ASTP and Army Air Force Training. Bill served as a Staff Sergeant and infantry communication specialist with Company D, 222nd Infantry, 42nd Rainbow Division in the Rhineland and Central Europe. For his service in the Fightin’ 42, he was awarded the Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, World War II Victory Medal and two overseas service bars. His unit was also awarded a Presidential Citation for its role in helping to liberate prisoners of war at the concentration camp at Dachau. He was very proud of his service to his country and years later participated in several Rainbow Reunions which were very important for him in reconnecting with his former army buddies. Bill was honorably discharged March 26, 1946 from Camp McCoy, Wisconsin and deactivated from the service several months later.
In 1946, Bill met his future wife Suntina Moretto on a blind date. They were married on June 28, 1947, and moved to the house on the corner of Peary Street and 98th Avenue West, where they lived for 52 years while raising 7 children. His work career began as an Electrolux salesman and then as an employment counselor with the State of Minnesota Job Service. He worked in this position and as a supervisor for 32 years and found great satisfaction helping people find employment. As a father, Bill was involved in the Scouting Program and also supported his children in their numerous sporting events and school performances. He also inspired his family through example by devoting time and energy in support of their family parish of St. Elizabeth in New Duluth.
Upon his “formal retirement” in April of 1986, Bill maintained his passionate involvement in civic affairs. He served on various city-wide boards and commissions, task forces and focus groups over many years. Bill was awarded the annual Duluth Hall of Fame Award by Mayor John Fedo in May of 1987 and was also recognized earlier this summer by Mayor Don Ness for his continuous volunteer work and over 50 years of service to our Duluth community. He believed strongly in the act of volunteerism to help create an environment where all residents could live safe and happy lives.
Bill and Suntina moved to Lakeshore in 2005. They spent many hours appreciating memories of family and friends in their Gary-New Duluth neighborhood, as well as making new friends at Lakeshore. Throughout his later years, Bill would recount many fond memories of his family, siblings and friends. He was very proud of his own children and grandchildren, never passing up a chance to tell them so. His family is grateful for the values he instilled in them including spirituality, unconditional love, patience, a sense of tenacity, humor, love of learning, and respect and kindness for all. He was the “last Uncle” and maintained a loving relationship with his many nieces, nephews and cousins until his last days. Bill was a wonderful man and touched so many throughout his life.
Bill is preceded in death by his loving wife, Suntina Theresa; parents Michael and Mary; sister Ann; brothers Mike, John, Joe, Rudy, Louis and Raymond. He is survived by his children Marge (John) Fajardo of Broomfield, CO; William L. of Holyoke; Joan (Carol) and Joyce (Jill) of Minneapolis; and Thomas John (Peg), Mary (Gene) White, and Mark (Jen) all of Duluth; his grandchildren, Matthew (Kathy) and Tim (Kendal) Douville; Jennifer (Cory) Anderson, Billy (Amy) Wyman-Spehar; Elizabeth and Thomas Spehar; Zachary, Jacob, Suntina, Isaac Spehar, Sadie and Candie Brown; and many great-grandchildren who brought him much joy and love. He will be greatly missed by all.
He is also survived by a brother in-law Phillip (Judy) Moretto, sister-in-laws Alice M. Olson and Erma Harty, and many special nieces, nephews and cousins.
Bill’s family would like to extend a thank you to the staffs of Lakeshore, Essentia Health/St. Mary’s and the VA Clinic in Superior for the kindness and care provided.
Mass of Christian Burial: 11:00 a.m. Saturday, August 31, 2013, in St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, 610 99th Avenue West, Duluth, MN. Visitation: 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Friday, August 30, 2013, with Rosary at 5:00 p.m. in the Dougherty Funeral Home, 600 East 2nd Street Duluth and one hour prior to the service in the church. Burial at Calvary Cemetery, Superior, WI.
Lahko Noc, Dad