When Jim Spieles accepted a teaching position back in 1964 in a small, unfamiliar place called Wauseon, his wife Dolores had her doubts.
“I told Jim, one year and we’re out of here,” she said. “I didn’t know a person even to call.”
Now the city they say wholeheartedly adopted them 53 years ago has named the Spieleses the grand marshals of the 2017 Wauseon Homecoming. They will be spotlighted in the Grand Parade on July 29 at 11 a.m. riding in a 1923 Ford Model T. The parade will start at the corner of Leggett and Fulton streets and wend its way to an end at Elm Street and Shoop Avenue.
The couple said being named the grand marshals is a humbling honor after their lifetime of service and devotion to a community that warmly welcomed the strangers early in their 56-year marriage.
“Wauseon has always been good to us,” Dolores said. “It has been our life – the school and the community and the church, and the people. The people are fantastic. Nobody knew us, but that didn’t mean they didn’t reach out to us.”
A native of Delphos, Ohio, Jim had considered teaching positions in both Anna, Ohio, and Grove City, Ohio, before deciding on Wauseon. He taught chemistry, physics, and astronomy at Wauseon High School over a 36-year career. Dolores, of Ottoville, Ohio, taught various grades in the school district for about 20 years before becoming a county educational supervisor for the rest of her 39-year stint.
Both remain highly impressed with Wauseon’s academic institutions. “I think it was the right choice,” Dolores said. “(Jim) could not have come to a better scenario. We think it’s an excellent school system.”
It was their teaching positions and their involvement with St. Caspar Catholic Church – where Jim, 78, still chairs the Meals on Wheels program, and Dolores, 77, got involved in the religious education program – that opened doors to both service and socializing. Dolores soon brushed aside any initial misgivings she had about staying.
“People just were so kind and caring, and pretty soon there was a great connection, with lots of friends who are still friends today,” she said. “There’s nothing better than going to the grocery store. It might take me two hours to get my groceries because I run into people that are of our past. That’s a treasure you’ll only find in a smaller town.”
The Spieleses said they’re delighted with all aspects of the city, including its access to comprehensive health care. Dolores said through the years many specialty medical services have become more available locally, “and that helps us in our old age a lot.” She also praised city government, and the local historical society for “trying to maintain and provide for the future.”
And they complimented the community sports programs, which their five children – Becky, Julie, Chris, Doug, and Jeff – participated in.
But what resounds most with the couple are the people.
“They look out for each other,” Dolores said. “You’re not just another entity. You are my friend, my neighbor – there’s connections. And there’s an outpouring of just caring.”
She cited the drive to pass a school levy to build the present elementary/middle school complex.
“It was all of the wonderful people that gave of their time. They had homes, they had families, they had things they had to do… (but) they did whatever they could, and because of that we have those buildings. It’s the people in this community who banded together.”
Homecoming Committee co-chair Jodi Kutzli said all of the committee members suggest people for the honor who have been a positive community influence and have performed outstanding services.
“It was pretty much a unanimous vote that the honor should be bestowed upon them,” she said of the Spieleses. “They were mentioned as a couple, and I thought that was unique.”
Kutzli said the committee was impressed with the couple’s educational background. “They touched the lives of many in the community through the school system,” she said. “They’re just wonderful people, and above all else we feel they are absolutely the ones to be chosen.”
Becoming grand marshals isn’t the couple’s first honor. Both were named to the Wauseon High School Academic Hall of Fame, Jim in 2011 and Dolores in 2012. And several years ago they jointly received an “I Love Wauseon” award from the Chamber of Commerce.
Dolores said the Spieleses have felt fortunate in Wauseon. “It’s been good. There are a lot of great people here,” she said.
Jim added, “We like Wauseon’s personality.”
He downplayed the contributions he and Dolores have made to the community, saying, “There are people more worthy than us” to be named Homecoming grand marshals. But he said the honor is both flattering and humbling.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.