Walter “Wally” B. Spanier, 82 of Lake Henry, died peacefully surrounded by his family Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at Assumption Nursing Home in Cold Spring. A private family Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Louis Catholic Church in Paynesville. Burial will be in the St. Louis Catholic Cemetery Columbarium. A public celebration of life will be held at a later date. Arrangements are with the Johnson Funeral Home in Paynesville.
Walter Benedict Spanier was born on October 22, 1937, to Alfred and Lidwinia (Mehr) Spanier. He had one good season of track before graduating from Paynesville High School in 1955. Wally enrolled in the United States Army in 1956. After the Army, he continued to work on the family farm. In 1961, Wally began working as a subcontractor for Northern States Power (NSP). He married LaVonne Lucille Loch on August 23, 1971. Farming, being a lineman with NSP and bartending provided for his family. The love of a good story and a good time made him a great bartender. The late-night singing, stories, and good times is where Wally shined.
Wally worked hard, sacrificing so much to provide for his family. After a long week on the road, he would get right down to business on the family farm, fixing equipment, mending fence, and splitting wood. All of it was worth it to see Wally sitting on top of a tractor baling hay or plowing. Smiling and calm. When asked which tractor was Wally’s favorite, he replied, “anything that would start.”
Wally continued to show up for work at NSP/Xcel until he was 68. His coworkers remember his superb operator skills, patience, love of Old Milwaukee, and his curiosity. Never taking a vacation day for an actual vacation but instead starting a family tradition and took a day off to take all his kids on a college visit. Wally was very proud that all five kids graduated from college, most receiving their masters.
Wally’s love of adventure didn’t stop as he aged. Whether it was a cross-country trip with his buddy Jerome, downhill skiing at age 65 in Montana, bungee-jumping with daughter Sara in Colorado at 70, Boundary Waters canoe trip with his sons, white water rafting with his daughters, camping with his grandkids or baseball spring training trips. If the wheels were moving, Wally was up for it! One of Wally’s last road trips took him to Durango, Colorado, on the Million Dollar Highway. Sitting at a table, looking out on the sunset on the mountains, he said, “I wonder what all the poor people are doing.” Dad was not rich; they had financial hardships, but every time his heart was full, he would say that. Cruising the lake in his pontoon, sitting around the campfire with family, playing cards with their friends, fishing, working at the garden with Charles and Greg, or driving his four-wheeler among the trees he planted, he felt rich with happiness.
It feels like we were cheated more time with Wally due to dementia, but now it’s easy to remember all the good that he brought to each of us. Wally’s listening skills, his side smile, his handclap when something was funny, his blue-blue eyes, and his kindness will be his legacy. What more could a man want? To go on adventures, to farm a piece of land, to leave behind a family that works hard, loves each other, and grandkids that light up when they talk about Papa Wally.
Wally is survived by his wife, LaVonne of 47 years; Greg Spanier, of Cold Spring, Mark (Mary), Spanier of Big Lake, Jeff (Traci) Spanier of Minneapolis, Jill (Roger) Wuertz of Cold Spring and Sara (Ryan) Doerflein of Denver, Colorado; grandkids, Madeline and Jack Spanier, Mason and Mitchell Spanier, Lydia and Cora Spanier, Davis and Briggs Wuertz and Lane Doerflein; and siblings, Fran Simon of Minneapolis, Joan (Tom) Cebulla of Anoka and Charles Spanier of Paynesville.
He is proceeded in death by his parents, Alfred & Lidwina Spanier, siblings, Tom Spanier and Eileen Schleper and grandson Benjamin Thomas Spanier.