Richard Milton Spies was born Aug. 20, 1935, on the family farm in Plymouth Township to Milton R. and Kathryn J. (Rush) Spies. The youngest of four siblings, he was doted over by his three older sisters who remained dear to him throughout his life.
Dick, as he was known to family and friends, attended Spies Country School near his family farm. In 1948 his family moved to Hinton. He later graduated from Hinton Community High School in 1955. Following high school, Dick attended Morningside College.
He served his country as a member of the Iowa Army National Guard for six years. Activated into the U.S. 5th Army in 1958, he did his basic training in Missouri and furthered his training in California. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1964.
As a young boy, Dick learned carpentry skills from his father. He worked as a self-employed master carpenter for many years. His craftsmanship can be seen in hundreds of homes in the Hinton area, building lifetime relationships as he constructed homes for families. He also worked for 12 years maintaining the facilities and classrooms of the Hinton School System.
Dick was proud of his community and worked tirelessly to make it a better place. He served as a member of the Hinton City Council from 1968-72. He later served as mayor from 1986-87. During his tenure, the frontage road linking Marland Heights and the town of Hinton was developed.
He was an early member of the Hinton Civic Club and an active member from 1955-1990. The Club organized annual street dances and barbeques. Many of the early celebrations included closing the main street, setting up a tent and hosting a carnival. The annual hole-in-one golf tournament was held without the benefit of a golf course. The local baseball diamond was used to determine the winner. A special treat for the children of Hinton was the once a year all you could eat watermelon night.
In 1983, Dick was honored to be selected as the chairman of the Hinton Centennial celebration. The four-day celebration included parades, an all-school reunion and a raft race down the Floyd River.
He held a variety of offices within the all-volunteer Hinton Fire Department including fire chief.
Dick was a talented and gifted singer. A song was always in his heart and not far from his lips. He sang for a number of years with the barbershop quartet, "Hi-Jynx." The singers were invited to numerous northwest Iowa communities to participate in talent nights. He later shared his talents for numerous weddings and funerals with his wife, Jeanette.
Dick was united in marriage to Jeanette Blum Wankum on April 25, 1986 at the Merrill Melbourne United Methodist Church. The couple made their home in Merrill in a beautiful house he built on a hill overlooking the town. Every year he created a colorful Christmas display that could be seen for miles. He used to joke about the personal thank you note he received from the power company each year.
He was quick with a story that always included his big baritone laugh. No matter how many times he told the same story, he always told it with the joy of a new found toy. His counsel will be missed as he imparted wisdom and advice on his four boys and grandchildren.
Survivors include his wife of 26 years, Jeanette of Merrill; four sons, Michael and Clair Wankum, of Scituate, Mass., Patrick and Misty Wankum, of Hinton, Matthew and Margaret Wankum, of Merrill, and Mark Wankum, of Moville; 13 grandchildren; two sisters, Peg Carroll, of Hinton and Joanne and Don Richards, of Hinton; a brother-in-law, Don Lang of Hinton; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Milton R. and Kathryn J. (Rush) Spies; a sister, Lois Lang; a grandson, Caleb Wankum; and a brother-in-law, Delmar Carroll.
Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Hinton United Methodist Church in Hinton, with Pastor Kolleen Queener officiating. Interment will be at Floyd Valley Cemetery rural Merrill. Visitation will be after 4 p.m. Thursday at the Merrill-Melbourne United Methodist Church with a 7 p.m. prayer service Thursday evening at the church. Visitation will continue Friday morning from 9:30 a.m. until service time at the Hinton United Methodist Church.
Pallbearers will be his grandchildren Kevin Wankum, Benjamin Wankum, Cameron Wankum, Josh Wankum, Alex Wankum, and Andrew Wankum. Honorary casket bearers will be Mikelle Wankum, Tess Wankum, Anna Wankum, Molly Wankum, Maddie Wankum, Sylva Wankum, and Erica Wankum.
Expressions of sympathy may be extended to the family through www.carlsenfuneralhome.com.