John "Jack" Calvin Spears

John "Jack" Calvin Spears

7/1/1926 — 4/6/2020

Jack Spears, our dad, a quiet, gentle man, passed away Monday, April 6, 2020, at 7:15 p.m., at 93. He entered the world July 1, 1926, at Stites.

He can best be described as an honest, hard-working citizen of America. His success was not measured by the positions that he held in life, but more by the obstacles he overcame while trying to succeed. There is a quote that describes Dad’s character: “It is not what he has, nor even what he does, which directly expresses the worth of a man, but what he is.”

Dad started life in Stites, but the family soon moved to Clearwater, where they lived until the winter of 1934, when they moved to Clarkston. Because of the terrible economic conditions and the financial strain on the family, Dad left home and went to work for a rancher in the Tammany area. Dad was 12 years old. The rancher was friendly and fair, but his wife did not like Dad. She was often indifferent to his needs or feelings.

On one occasion, Dad was returning from his parents’ home in Clarkston, in order to return to work at the ranch the next day. He was riding his bicycle on a gravel road and it was dark. About 2 miles from the ranch, he wrecked. His arms and legs were scraped and bleeding. The bicycle wouldn’t work, so Dad pushed it back to the ranch, limping. The rancher’s wife didn’t say a word to him, but she did bandage his knees and elbows. Dad went to work the next day milking cows. Dad said, “That was good because I sat on the milk stool most of the time, because I couldn’t walk very well.” Dad said, “I was thankful the rancher’s wife bandaged me.”

A year later, Dad went to work for another rancher, Dave Ramsey, on his ranch 8 miles up the Middle Fork of the Clearwater from Kooskia. He worked for Ramsey for two years, then moved to Payette, where he worked in the potato harvest one season. He then returned to Clearwater and went back to school. After school, he would work at anything he could find that would pay a wage. Part of the time, he stayed with his sister, Ruby, and her husband, Norm Yarbrough. Work was easy to find, because most of the men were gone fighting in World War II.

After some time, Dad found work at P.F.I. Camp 58, located at McComas Meadows. He was 16 years old and started working greasing trucks. After about eight months, Dad met and married Geneva Rupe on June 4, 1943. Soon after, at age 17, Dad joined the U.S. Navy. Dad went to boot camp at Farragut, Idaho, and Mom moved near him with relatives. After boot camp, Dad was assigned to the USS Algorab (AKA-8).

He was designated a boswain mate seaman. His duties included all types of work on deck, including wench operator for loading and unloading cargo. The Algorab hauled infantry and heavy equipment. Dad’s general quarters station was a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun crew.

During the battle of Okinawa, Dad’s gun crew, along with others, shot down an attacking Japanese plane. The pilot was fished out of the ocean by one of Dad’s buddies, who then removed personal items from the pilot. One such item was a Japanese flag. It was presented to Dad by his friend for the shoot-down. Dad had the flag the rest of his life.

After the Okinawa battle, Dad continued to serve until March 1946, when he was honorably discharged from the Navy at Bremerton, Wash.

Returning home, he resumed his employment with P.F.I. at Camp 58. He worked at numerous jobs at the camp, including baking. He ended up as a mechanic, working on Peterbilt trucks. His employment with P.F.I. was the happiest time of his life. Four of his brothers, Bob, Harvey, Lester and Dean, were also employed there, as well as two brothers-in-law, Leonard Lohrey and Norm Yarbrough.

At the camp, he met many lifelong friends. Several of those friends he maintained contact with all of their lives, including Don Morrow and Ted Bryant, whom he worked with in the truck shop.

Dad and Mom had purchased a small log home on Sears Creek at Harpster. They lived there for six years, but then sold the cabin and moved to Grangeville in 1955. P.F.I. was closing Camp 58, so Dad took a job with Normac Motors as a mechanic.

After five years, Dad was promoted to shop foreman. After two more years, Dad was promoted to service manager. In three more years, Norm Whittet, the owner of Normac Motors, sold the business. Dad then took employment as a mechanic with the U.S. Forest Service. After five years, Dad transferred to North Bend, Wash., in 1966, and continued to work as a mechanic with the Snoqualmie National Forest.

After a year more with the Forest Service, Dad took a position with the U.S. West Telephone Co. He retired from there in March 1987, as the quality assurance manager of the automotive division.

During the time he was working for the phone company, he attended college at Bellevue Community and obtained a two-year Associate of Arts degree in business. He is the only one of his 11 siblings to attend college.

In the retirement years, Dad and Mom, like many others of their generation, traveled, visiting Alaska, Arizona and various other states. They were always ready to return to their home in Idaho.

On Jan. 17, 1991, Mom passed away with cancer. Dad was stricken and became almost reclusive. It was like he was being held captive by an invisible monster that wanted his soul. The family rallied with support and Dad rid himself of the ogre’s chains. He became happy again.

He married Velma VonBargen on March 28, 1998. They had 22 years of happiness together, helping family members with different projects, fishing the South Fork and tending their garden at home in Grangeville.

Dad was most happy when he was at home tinkering in his shop. He had a strong mind for order and security. All doors were always locked and all tools cleaned and put away in order. Each tool was marked with his initials, even each socket in a set. Some of Dad’s tools were ancient, dating back to the ’30s when he first started mechanic work.

In life, Dad did other things that kind of surprised the rest of us. For several years, he coached little league football in Bellevue. He also surprised us with several years of skeet shooting while in Bellevue. In his younger years, he loved to watch sports. Boxing and football were his favorites. When watching a boxing match, he would sit on the edge of the couch and throw punches with the boxer he wanted to win.

One time, Dad was watching a football game. The running back received the ball and broke free on the 20-yard line. As he was rushing for the end zone 80 yards downfield, Dad became so excited he ran along the sideline with him. Dad made the touchdown at the same time the runner did.

In 2016, Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As time went along, his condition became worse. On Oct. 17, 2018, we took Dad to the ER in Grangeville. Later that night, Velma fell in the home and broke her leg. Ten days later, we took them both to the Life Care Center in Lewiston.

In the last week of March 2020, Dad was infected with the coronavirus. Our hearts are heavy as we were not able to be with him during his last few hours, but the last thing he said to me, through his room window, was, “I love my kids.”

Dad and Mom and Dad and Velma did not quarrel in their marriages. They were happy because that comes with the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life and to be needed, and Dad, you were needed. Thank you.

Dad is survived by his wife, Velma, at Lewiston; brothers Dean Spears, of Medford, Ore., and Lester Spears, of Asotin; his children, Monty (Brenda) Spears, of Harpster, Roger (Kathy) Spears, of Post Falls, Idaho, and Julie (Dave Hammond) Clemmons, of Grangeville; his stepdaughter, Thia Seeley, of Reubens; grandchildren Matt (Kari) Spears, of University Place, Wash., Mike (Rachel) Spears, of Lewiston, Mary (Doug) Bailey, of Portland, Ore., Sheila Pizzo, of Post Falls, and Jennifer (Tyler) Schafer, of Troutdale, Ore.; stepgranddaughter Rachel Jordan, of Lewiston; and 10 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, John W. and Mary Spears; brothers Bob, Harvey, Raymond, Jimmie and Eual; sisters Ruby Yarbrough, Louise Lohrey, Jewel Smythe, Nola Bly and Lucille McWillis.

Because of the coronavirus, a memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.




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