Stephen F. Spelic
Stephen Francis Spelic passed away on May 21, 2018. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Stephanie Stockard Spelic; sons, Nicholas and Zachary (Chassidy) Spelic, and twin granddaughters, Korina and Elliana Spelic. Stephen is also survived by sisters, Irene Dohn (Frank) and Betty Scribner (Willis) as well as many nieces, nephews and “greats.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Thursday, May 31st from 5pm to 7pm at the West Center Chapel. Memorials may be directed to: Lutheran Family Services, c/o Lindsay Kroll/ CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) program; Lauritzen Gardens; or the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA).
Stephen F. Spelic was born on Christmas Day in Omaha, Nebraska to Joseph and Claire Spelic of 1305 Connell Court. Fortunately, Stephen did not develop a “God complex” from having such an auspicious birthday and in fact was quite a humble person. He was also a self-described “cock-eyed” optimist, always seeing the glass half full. When people asked wasn’t it terrible to have a Christmas birthday, he would reply “Oh no! In fact, I got an extra present on Christmas morning!”
Steve had five older sisters and a brother; Mary Clare Guiton, Joann Dow, Joseph Spelic, and Irene Dohn were the “first family” and then along came sister, Betty and then, Steve. Steve graduated from St. Patrick Grade School in South Omaha, and graduated from Central High School in 1962. His growing up years were happy and mostly carefree. As the youngest child, with older siblings married and gone and parents working, Steve had lots of freedom to roam Riverview Park (now the Henry Doorly Zoo) and fish and hang out with the neighborhood kids. With older sisters dating and marrying while he was still in grade school, he was always happy to see their suitors because they always brought him great and precious gifts, such as jars of olives and unusual cheeses in order to win the hands of his beautiful older sisters. He loved spending summers at the Koenig farm in Spalding, Nebraska with his sister-in-law, Pat Spelic’s family and her brother Bill Koenig.
Steve’s mother was a wonderful cook and talented seamstress and not only made clothes for the sisters and wedding dresses for his sisters and sister-in-law, but also turned out some fine men’s clothing. He always complained the dining room table was covered with patterns, dresses and straight pins. Dressing well was something Steve valued and learned more about from working at the Wardrobe for Men. To this day, his closet has more clothes than his wife’s.
Another favorite job that developed his artistic eye was working at Schwartz Jewelry company in downtown Omaha. Mr. Schwartz would send Steve, a skinny high school kid, through downtown with a pocket full of loose diamonds to the company that set and cut the stones. His only regret was not taking Mr. Schwartz’s advice to save up and buy diamonds.
He made lifelong friends in grade school and high school, and later, in college and the Navy. Steve began college at UNO, then Omaha University. He wasn’t all that interested in school but did enjoy the fraternity life of Lambda Chi Alpha, the hijinks of which his father heartily disapproved. Around this time, the Vietnam War had begun and the draft was in full swing. Steve saw the writing on the wall and signed up for the Navy. In boot camp, he was warned never to volunteer for anything, but ever the optimist, he raised his hand when the recruits were asked if anyone could type. Throughout his various four years in the Navy, he had great jobs as the assistant to the captains of the ships on which he served and the Admiral. Now, those of you who know Steve well will not be surprised that at the end of his career in the Navy, he was awarded commendations and medals for processing over three hundred discharges in a week at the end of the war (carbon paper and typewriters) and thoroughly overhauling the Admiral’s office system.
Despite the grim Vietnam War, Steve embraced learning about the people and cultures of Southeast Asia. He taught English in Taiwan and fell in love with the country. In the Philippines, he learned some games and cultural customs (monkey meat) and was always curious and adventurous. The dreary side of military life and the horrors of the war were things he kept to himself, instead choosing to see his service as an adventure.
Returning home from the Navy with his childhood friend, Paul Hayduska, they pondered where their lives were heading while drinking beer on the front porch and eating, guess what, olives. Steve’s father would come out on the porch and shake his head and say, “What are you, a bunch of jingolos(gigolos)? Get a job!”
Steve returned to college and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in general studies. He started his career in recreational therapy at the old Our Lady of Victory mental health facility. This was a perfect job for him as he like to have fun and organize things. He pursued his Master’s degree in social work later and worked at the old and new Immanuel hospital where he was known as the “cruise director” by his colleagues because he was always thinking up new ideas and ways to help patients, and lighten up the atmosphere with things such as “doughnut therapy” and mental health education for barbers, beauticians and bartenders. He ended his career in mental health at Alegent Immanuel (CHI) as Government Affairs and Outreach Strategist for Behavioral Health. He found this job and the many lives he touched the most rewarding job of his career.
In 1977, his colleague, Susan Knight fixed him up on a blind date with Stephanie Stockard, who had most recently moved back to Omaha to teach at Creighton School of Nursing. For that date with Susan and her husband Rolf, Steve picked up his date, Stephanie, in his pride and joy, a blue Fiat convertible, top down. He was dressed stylishly for the 70s in a powder blue leisure suit, patterned nylon shirt, gold chain, long hair and full mustache. Stephanie was immediately on guard with this “playboy” vision in blue. However, the rest is history. In May of 1979 Stephen and Stephanie were married at St. John’s Church on the Creighton campus and moved into Steve’s house on Nicholas Street which he had gutted and refurbished, one of his many talents. In November of 1981, Nicholas Joseph Spelic was born, followed by Zachary Thomas Spelic in 1985. Steve took great joy in his family and being a good father, scout leader, teacher and adventurer. There are so many wonderful memories of the growing up years as we moved from Nicholas Street to Parkwood Lane, where he again created a beautiful home for his family. Life moved by quickly and for the most part happily. We enjoyed soccer games, basketball, scouts, learning to drive, trips to Colorado, Alaska, Boston and the beach and all the happy, ordinary joys of family life. We were and are blessed to have wonderful family, friends and colleagues.
Then in 2012, Stephen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He met this challenge with great courage and determination. He refused to listen to a prognosis or doom and gloom. His mantra was “Done, over with, gone.” His chemotherapy was highly effective and in January of 2013 he went to Mayo clinic for a lifesaving surgery. In spite of other health obstacles at times, he remained cancer free for the rest of his life. His attitude was always upbeat and determined. He never complained. He found solace in prayer and healing touch. That same year, 2013, we were touched by tragedy when Nicholas, our oldest son, suffered a life-altering injury. Despite this blow, Steve continued to heal and remain strong for his family. Stephen lived six years from the time of his diagnosis, cancer free. Six years we had him in a joyful way in our lives. In the end, his body was tired, although his spirits never faltered. He took joy in everyday things and was always filled with gratitude. Zachary and Chassidy and their twins, Korina and Elliana were a particular joy. He was “Deda” (Croatian for grandfather) and loved the role.
Stephen was a loving, gentle and truly kind man. He was a faithful, loving husband and devoted father who was a role model to his sons on how to be a good man and parent. He was a well loved and fun-loving uncle to his many nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. He was a loyal and caring friend and colleague and enjoyed life immensely and with gratitude.
This summarizes our lives with Stephen. “Yet the one thing we could not do without could never be bought, no matter how generous the terms. And it was love, love in all its forms, precious, fragile and enduring. The priceless gift that made our lives worthwhile, invisibly upholding us and demanding no repayment, offered in silence, more precious than gold.” (from Call the Midwife)