With the deepest sadness, I am sharing that we recently learned of the death of Honorary Trustee and long-time Chewonki board member and friend, Gary Spiess. We have included the obituary from Gary’s local newspaper, The Marblehead Current, here, and will follow with more news as we can. I know you all join me in sending sympathy and condolences to Gary’s wife, Betsy, and their children and grandchildren who themselves have a multitude of active Chewonki connections and memories. I am delighted that the Spiess family’s ties to Chewonki are solid and secure, and grateful for the presence of Gary’s son Ben on the foundation’s Advisory Board. Gary’s four sons – Ben, Howard (“Will”), Jamie, and John – have been campers, staff, and camp parents on a continuous basis since 1988. This is a powerful and compelling testament to the Spiess family’s attachment to us, and ours to all of them.
Gary recently shared with me that “one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made was to resign from the Chewonki board of trustees,” accepting the role of Honorary Trustee in May 2019 after serving on the board as an advisor and trustee from 1988 – 2015, his total time in service extending over thirty years. Despite Gary’s active and informed work in his Honorary Trustee role as a member of the Finance Committee and the Investment Advisory sub-committee, he realized that he missed the opportunity the trustee role afforded him for up-to-the-minute involvement in evolving news and decisions, and the consequent obligation to vote on matters of critical importance to the foundation. Last winter he humbly asked to be considered for another term as trustee, promptly securing a place on the Board Development and Governance Committee’s waitlist for potential re-election next May. I already miss his wise, gracious, gentle, and very direct counsel. I will aim to ask, “What would Gary do?” as we go forward. He was among the small group of capable people on our board whose historical perspective and advice I often sought, and that I always treasured. There was abundant dry humor sprinkled through our conversations as Gary understood the sporadic entertainment value of ever-fallible humanity, even as he relished the opportunity to stay in the game, fully present and accounted for.
Gary attended our November board meeting from a hospital bed, texting thanks and best wishes to me and Nancy, and through us to the leadership team, at the end of a very long day. This is the smallest example of his commitment and dedication, one that I am guessing will ring true to his colleagues in his many other philanthropic engagements, in which he often took a leadership role, and to his fellow citizens of the town of Marblehead, Massachusetts whose Town Moderator he was for sixteen years. How very generous of Gary to spread his good deeds and good sense so widely, and so well. How very lucky for his Chewonki friends that we, and our mission, were among those Gary worked hard to sustain and improve, and shepherd into a stronger future.
Roseanne Saalfield, Board Chair