Funeral services for 93-year old Walt Speirs of rural Hay Springs, NE, are Monday, June 7, 2021 at 10:00 at Chamberlain Chapel in Chadron, NE, with the Rev Paul Smith officiating.
Burial with military honors will follow at the Greenwood Cemetery in Chadron.
Visitation is Sunday, June 6, from 5:00-7:00 PM, also at Chamberlain Chapel.
Memorials are suggested to Dawes County 4-H in honor of the many years Walt and Lola and their family participated in the program.
Online condolences may be made at chamberlainchapel.com.
Walter Alden Speirs was born Aug. 30, 1927, in Hay Springs to Oliver Samuel and Mildred Marie (Jackson) Speirs. He died May 30, 2021, at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital in South Dakota.
Walter grew up on the family farm in the Antelope Valley south of Chadron and through childhood was known as “Sonny.” He attended elementary school at District 42 and graduated from Hay Springs High School in 1945.
During their senior year, Walt and many of his high school friends made several attempts to enlist in the U-S Navy and he was finally accepted on June 25 and sworn in July 2. Walter served in the Philippines and was proud to be a veteran of World War II.
After his military service, he used the GI Bill to attend Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Okla, graduating in 1949. Flying and airplanes were his passion.
Walt and Lola May Key of Chadron eloped to Rapid City and were married Sept. 15, 1951. He’d earned a reputation as the pilot who kept buzzing Lola’s schoolhouse to get a glimpse of the cute school teacher. They were married 67 years before she preceded him in death in 2019.
After he graduated from Spartan, Walt worked as a mechanic. As part of his job, he would fly to farms and ranches in the Sandhills to deliver parts or make repairs to farm equipment.
Walt and many of his friends owned planes and hangered them at home, taking off and landing on any flat field they could find.
Walt moved the family to Renton, Wash, in 1957 when he began working at Boeing. While at Boeing, he worked on the first 707s, including the one that became Air Force One.
Living in the Seattle area was a big adventure that he and Lola would often talk about fondly, but in June 1960, they returned to the Hay Springs area to take over the farm his family homesteaded in 1885. He called it the best place he knew to raise a family.
Walt began working for the Dawes County roads department in the late 1960s and would work there most of the time until his retirement. He was known for his meticulous operation of the road maintainer and his willingness to come plow snow whenever called.
Walt loved to hunt and fish. He was an accomplished gunsmith who built rifles from scratch and handloaded his own ammunition. He also built and flew model airplanes.
Although Walt lost his sight and hearing as he aged, he never lost his strongest sense — his sense of humor. He would laugh at the worst jokes, and his grandchildren quickly learned not ask “What are you up to?” because he would reply “Oh, about 6 foot 1.”
Walt almost never met a kid who didn’t love him because he was kind and fun and happy and loved to be around them. He and Lola missed very few of their children’s sporting or other events. He would sometimes watch a little league game even if he didn’t know any of the players because kids amused him and he loved baseball.
Walt taught his children that a person can do almost anything he or she applies themself to, and he believed in education. He encouraged and supported all of his children and his wife as they earned college degrees.
Walt believed in serving his community. He spent many years as a member of the District 44 School Board and once was a candidate for Dawes County Treasurer.
In retirement, Walt and Lola enjoyed traveling and camping in their fifth-wheel camper. They moved to Prairie Pines in Chadron in 2012 and he was happy to have the company of his fellow residents, many of them lifelong friends and acquaintances.
Walt’s family appreciates the care and compassion the Prairie Pines staff gave him every day and considered them his friends, too.
Walt remembered almost everything and took a treasure room full of family memories with him. He liked to visit with everyone, but he especially liked to share those stories with his family.
Mourning that loss are his children, Dan and his wife, Julie, of Kearney, Valerie Worth and her husband, Doug, of Parker, Colo., Tim and his wife, Deann, of Chappell, Mike and Candy Recker of Howells and Pat of Hay Springs and Robin Johannssen; grandchildren, Chris of Hay Springs, who was like a son to him, Emily Tienken of Berkeley, Calif., Savannah Worth and Trevor Worth, both of Denver, Chance Speirs of Chappell and Anna Speirs of Chappell; his cousin, Bill Jackson and wife Juanita of Chadron; and Lola’s cousin Marge Schumacher of Chadron.
In addition to his wife, Walt was preceded in death by his parents.
Chamberlain Chapel is in charge of arrangements for Walter Speirs.