Cover photo for Donald Leon Spieth's Obituary
Donald Leon Spieth Profile Photo
1922 Donald 2012

Donald Leon Spieth

February 4, 1922 — September 27, 2012

Don Spieth, 90, died recently of old age, a condition he adamantly denied having whenever someone suggested his independence end. He was a ball game watcher, scratch gardener and skilled collector of empty adult beverage containers, which he slowly drained at his kitchen table while listening to his police scanner at full volume. Don was the guy who left cherry tomato plants on your doorstep after you ignored his advice and planted too early. He was the overnight pet sitter who introduced your dog to fried hamburger. He was the stranger who put flowers on the graves of Bozeman’s forgotten old timers because remembrance was the only afterlife Don was certain existed. He was, in his parlance, “a good egg.” Don was from a different Bozeman than your Bozeman. His was a town where gunned down criminals were put on display at the mortuary for the curious to see, where a young Don with hockey skates and stick in hand, hopped freight trains for pickup games in faraway towns. Don’s Bozeman had an opium den to steer clear of. Your Bozeman has cellular phones and bicyclists with helmets. His Bozeman was better, rougher definitely, less convenient, but still somewhat resembled the town of his immigrant grandfather’s 1867 brewery. It was the kind of place Don enlisted to defend in World War II. He wanted to be a war pilot, had taken private flight lessons in preparation. But on the day Don’s training was to begin, with the troops assembled alphabetically, his commander announced there weren’t enough training slots. Everyone A through M learned to fly. Don Spieth became a military motorcycle cop. In England he patrolled his base and motored out to country pubs on a Harley Davidson to keep the peace, which he eventually lost his stripes for disturbing. A friend offered to help Don get his stripes back. “Speetie,” his friend said, using Don’s nickname, “You can have your stripes back tomorrow if you join the infantry.” The next day was June 6, 1944. The friend Don never saw again and 76,000 U.S. infantry men stormed the beaches of Normandy, while Don considered the offer and lived to get his stripes back. He was lucky that way. Don was lucky, after returning home, to meet Grace Esp, a young beautician and single mother who walked by Don’s childhood home daily on her way to work. They eloped to Billings to tie the knot. They had a daughter, Donna, and built the north Bozeman home Don lived in until his death. Grace was undeniably Don’s better, and smarter, half. She owned the Elite Beauty shop for several decades, which provided stable income as Don job hopped from mailman, to door-to-door lingerie salesman, to store clerk. She was the peddle brake pressing down on Don’s many escapades, sure bets on the World Series, debates he couldn’t win, tasks he couldn’t master. Grace completed in less than an hour the daily newspaper word puzzles Don spent the day cracking. When he peaked at her answers, Grace pretended not to notice. Her death in 1998 opened a hole in Don’s life no one could fill. Don was the last surviving Spieth of his generation and the last Bozeman resident with the surname. His siblings, Cleo Kent, Bill, Dale, Gaylord and Kenneth Spieth preceded him in death, as did Grace’s son, Jerry Buskirk. He is survived by his daughter Donna Lutey and her husband Tom. Grandsons Tom and Shane Lutey and their families. A graveside memorial service will be held Saturday, October 6th at 11:00 AM. Friends and family will meet at Dahl Funeral Chapel at 10:45 AM to process to the cemetery.

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