Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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It’s a Beautiful Life–Kathy Spess Bell!

One of my cousins went Home last week–Kathy Spess Bell (my mama loved her name and called her Kathy Nell) daughter of Paul and Wilma Spess, and sister to Rick, Lindy and Kim. She’ll be oh, so very missed by her family!

She had such a full life! I wanted to hear all about her, so her son, Luke, offered to fill us in.

I’m thrilled to be able to share his words and pictures with you.

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Thank you, Susan, for allowing me space to honor my mom, Kathy. She was so special to my dad and me. I just wanted an opportunity to share that with others she touched and lost contact with.

My name is Luke and I am the only child of Alan and Kathy.

Luke, Kathy & Alan

Luke, Kathy & Alan

I don’t know where to start, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning of when I met my mom. It was the dead of winter; Mom and Dad had just moved to Mt. Home, Idaho, and they didn’t know anyone. Thousands of miles away from her family, Mom was pregnant with me.

I guess I couldn’t wait, because I popped out over a month early and surprised everybody. And that’s when I met my mom, my best friend, and the two of us depended on each other ever since.

Dad was in the Air Force and was often expected to be on call all the time. Mam’ma (that’s what I call my grandma, Wilma) and Geneva Delancey came out to visit as soon as they could and my grandparents on my dad’s side came out later. But for the most part, it was just mom and I.

A couple years later, Dad had to do a remote assignment in Greenland for a year. So it really was just mom and I, but she was strong and I was always by her side.

When I was old enough to go to school, we lived in Sumter, South Carolina. Because of districting, the school that I should have gone to was in a bad part of town. Instead Mom and Dad enrolled me in a private school and Mom would drive me across town to school every day. She tried subbing there, but local politics discouraged that. However, they did allow her to volunteer all she wanted.

And volunteer she did. She was one of the main room mothers and in charge of organizing events and bringing cookies and treats for holidays, parties, birthdays, and more. Of course, Mom wasn’t content with just raising me, so she decided to continue her education.

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So where does a shy, wallflower like Mom go to school – Clown College. Yes, she was a professional clown. She took classes on how to perform, put on makeup, and make balloon animals. She had a fancy clown outfit made and even registered her clown name, Belly Bean. She taught me how to make the balloon animals and made a costume for me. Then, together, we would perform skits and entertain at the hospital and nursing homes with her as Belly Bean and me, of course, as Belly Button.

We continued to perform even after Dad got orders to move half way around the world to the lovely, tropical island of Guam. It was here where God showed Mom her true calling.

The elementary school I went to needed a librarian and they hired Mom full time. She was finally able to combine her passion for kids with entertaining and performing skits, all while teaching and fostering a love of reading in students. She was the librarian for only a year and then we had to move again – this time to Altus, Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, you have to have a master’s degree in library science to be a school librarian. So in addition to taking me to school, substitute teaching, being a room mother, going to Dad’s Air Force functions, driving six hours to Mannford to help her mom often, preparing meals for my dad’s grandparents in Rush Springs, shuttling my friends and I to band concerts, soccer games, and other activities; my Super Mom went back to school.

Lindy, Kim & Kathy

Lindy, Kim & Kathy

She would pick me up after school, whip up supper for Dad and I, and then drive an hour and a half from Altus to Weatherford for evening classes. Often with Dad and I were already in bed before she got home, but I would wake up the next morning and she would have breakfast ready.

She finished her degree in 2 1/2 years and, once again, it was time to move. But this time it was different, because Dad was retiring from the Air Force after 20 years of service. This time we had a choice of where to move. So after much prayer, my parents decided that we would move somewhere where I could finish my high school all in one place. Walking in faith, we moved to Stillwater with neither of them having jobs.

August 1973

August 1973

They had met, fallen in love, and gotten married while at OSU and felt this was the right place to be and we’ve been here ever since. But I can’t say it was easy. Dad was also called to teach, so he took jobs and drove daily to Tulsa and, later, Enid.

Since there were no library jobs open in the area, Mom took a job as a teacher’s aide for Kindergarten and first grade. But Mom was soon hired at Mulhall-Orlando and was the librarian there for two years.

That is until the May 5th tornado wiped out the town of Mulhall and the elementary school, including Mom’s library. But God is faithful. Her prayers were answered yet again and she didn’t have to rebuild her library.

She was able to take the librarian job at Frontier in Red Rock which is about 40 miles north of Stillwater and where Dad had gotten a job the year before.

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But, the thing that brought her the most joy, was having a student come back to the library excited about reading and wanting to tell her about how great the book was that she had recommended and ask her if there were any more like it. She accomplished so much while she was there, but it came at the cost of her health. If you haven’t figured it out yet, she was a workaholic.

She was the most dedicated and humble person I know. All Mom cared about was doing the best job she could for God and the students she loved so much. I’m reminded how in Matthew 5:16, it says to “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

God finally said enough and kept her from going back to Frontier in August by preventing her knees from bending enough to get in the car. And she was never able to leave our house again. Mom never wanted anyone to worry about her, especially her mom, or to be a burden on her family.

Sadly, I will never know if she approves of my future wife and I’ll never be able to go to her for advice on how to raise my kids. Though, as awkward as it was talking to her about girls, she did give me good advice for finding a wife.

She always told me to find a girl with a rich daddy. So if anyone knows a girl with a rich…Just kidding!

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I just want God to show me one with a heart for others as big as Mom’s. And in closing I would like to focus on two passages from the Bible that I thought were comforting.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though we are outwardly wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving us an external glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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