Hon. Richard J. Spethman 4/3/17 04/04/17 2:49:32 PM
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Hon. Richard J. SpethmanJudge’s Humor Remembered
June 6, 1932 - March 23, 2017
Marie Spethman raised three fine sons, all of whom became accomplished professionals: Gerald (Jerry), Edward (Ed) and Richard (Dick). Gerald was a medical doctor, Edward an educator, and Richard an attorney and judge. They were thick as thieves and credited their mother, who raised them single-handedly, for their success.
Jerry and Ed both died in the last few years. Now all three sons have been reunited upon the death of the Hon. Richard Spethman on March 23, 2017.
A retired Douglas County District Court Judge, Dick had returned to private practice in Omaha with his daughter Kathleen Pallesen. Two days before his death, at the age of 84, he had suffered a stroke.
Dick Spethman was a well-known figure at the Douglas County Courthouse and at Omaha Bar Association functions, especially the annual Field Day. He was an avid golfer but even more important to him was the camaraderie of local attorneys. (His son Rich said he often remarked that he had one good day on the golf course – the day he got a hole-in-one on July 31, 1993.)
Retired Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Mike McCormack can attest to that. Their friendship went back “many, many years.”
He said he saw Dick an average of twice a week, probably because “he was funny at all times. He had a phenomenal sense of humor.”
McCormack illustrated that with a story:
“He had a friend whose son, who was in high school, shared a keg of beer with some friends, then stopped at a drive-in [restaurant]. A cop saw them and arrested them. When they appeared before the judge, after adjudicating the case he said to them, “Next time, consider buying a 12-pack.”
“He could be stern when he needed to be, but he put humor in everything. He was very fair and always had a smile on his face,” McCormack said.
“By the way, did you know he had a hobby? He would go to his daughters’ houses and do their laundry! In fact, the only time I saw him laid up was when he went to do one of his daughter’s laundry, and fell coming out of the house and broke his leg!
“He was very active and very independent. He dropped out of his golf club about a year ago, but he would still play if you asked, just not regularly. And he was still doing his laundry!
“He lived in the same house forever and he used to tell me, ‘I can look out my kitchen window and see Ginny.’” Virginia (Ginny), his beloved wife of 55 years, died in 2013.
“He was a great guy,” McCormack said.
Spethman credited the Jesuits with a lot of his successes, both personally and professionally. He attended Creighton Prep as well as Creighton University and School of Law. He spent many years in private law practice before being appointed a judge in 1992 at age 60.
At the visitation last week, Dick’s family eulogized him with affection and humor. A sampling of their recollections:
“While at Prep, my Dad played basketball and was captain of the team his senior year,” daughter Susie said. “For many years, the 1950 state runner-up starting five on the basketball team would have lunch at Tiger Tom’s every Friday, and began each lunch with a discussion about the loss and how they could have prevented it.”
Susie verified McCormack’s “hobby” comment, saying her dad helped their mother with laundry, cooking and vacuuming. “He then did the same things at my house and my sisters’ houses. He would occasionally say, ‘At my funeral, when you are crying, people won’t know if it is because you miss me or have to learn to do your own laundry!’”
She said he loved his house – the only one he ever lived in – and said on more than one occasion, “I’m never moving – I’m going to Bergan, Heafey & Heafey [funeral home] and Calvary [Cemetery] and I won’t have to leave the neighborhood.”
She remembered how much he loved his brothers. “As kids we all liked to watch the three of them play pitch, as they laughed and gave each other a hard time. The nicknames such as Eddie Farhat, Frick and Frack, Fat-head Fred, and Fast Eddie, were heard often. He always referred to them as Brother Ed and Brother Jerry – we thought both of them were in a religious order since he always put the word “brother” in front of their names!”
Susie said he told his daughter Joanne about his brother Jerry’s funeral which she could not attend, saying, “the priest talked about the volunteer and service work that he was involved with.” He paused. “You’re going to have to make up something for my funeral.”
He loved people and being out and about. Susie said that in his calendar “he listed The Drover and LaCasa as his emergency contact numbers.”
There are so many more stories but, as Rich said, “Whenever it was time to leave, Dad would say ‘It’s time to go, Ginny’s tired.’”
Susie summed up: “He was a larger-than-life character in our lives and the lives of our children. We will miss his wit, wisdom, unconditional love, laughter and his double-denim wardrobe.”
He is survived by children: Patricia Kreikemeier (Kelly), Richard Spethman Jr. (Patrick Collins), Susie Sullivan (J. Malachy), Martin Spethman (Daniela), Kathleen Pallesen (Michael), Joanne Spethman, and Peggy Zier (Larry); 15 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
His funeral Mass was March 27 at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. Memorials are suggested to Creighton Prep, St. Joan of Arc Church or Marian High School (where his daughter Susan Sullivan is now principal and all five of his daughters graduated).
– By Lorraine Boyd