Dr. Richard T. Spangler, 56, spent his life caring for those in need, as close as St. Joseph Hospital on Chicago's near North Side, and as far away as Leogane, Haiti. Family and friends agree that he approached his life's mission with incredible kindness and gentleness. His life exemplified commitment to family, community and making a positive difference in the lives of the many people he touched.
Just last July, he and Patti, his wife of 27 years, spent 10 days in Haiti, where he ran an outpatient emergency clinic while his wife, a nurse practitioner and midwife, offered pre-natal care.
"He felt strongly about making sure the underprivileged got access to health care, especially underserved kids," says Patti. "He is my hero and always will be."
He instilled in his children his mission of service by involving them in projects at their parish, Ascension Church of Oak Park, where Spangler served on the school board and parish council, and by helping at the Chicagoland Muscular Dystrophy Association's summer camp in Lake Villa, where he had volunteered since medical school.
"I was still quite young when I spent my first week at MDA Camp with him," said Michael Spangler, 26. "I learned early on the importance of giving back and helping others, and that is a part of my Dad that will stay with me forever."
Dr. Spangler's service extended to the St. Vincent de Paul Center on North Halsted and Marillac House on South Francisco, where he volunteered for more than 20 years, performing physicals and checkups for underprivileged children.
Sr. Joyce Flowers, D.C., a nurse who worked with him at both locations, said, "He was wonderful at making the children calmer during their physical examinations."
In 2003, the St. Vincent de Paul Center presented Dr. Spangler with its Fleur de Lis Award, which recognizes those who exemplify the St. Vincent de Paul mission by serving those in need.
The news of his sudden passing came as a shock to his colleagues at Chicago's St. Joseph Hospital, where he was chairman of the Pediatrics Department and champion of the hospital's Laboure Outpatient Clinic and Seton Family Health Center.
"He was a strong leader of Pediatrics and of our community outreach efforts because he was such a relentless advocate for kids," said John Steiner, director of physician services at the hospital. "He lived our mission and he taught us about living our mission."
Steiner pointed out that Dr. Spangler, who received the hospital's 2010 Physician Leadership Award, demonstrated the importance of "gentleness and giving" to the Family Practice residents he taught.
Born in Omaha, Neb., in 1955, his family moved to Chicago's west Auburn neighborhood when he was 3. He graduated from St. Laurence High School in 1973 and attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 1977. Spangler then entered medical school at the University of Illinois.
Beyond his family, friends and life's work, his other passions in life were the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame sports. He has been a Cubs season ticket holder since 1985.
"Those Cub tickets were our real estate before we owned our first home," said Patti.
Daughter Maura shared a love of music with her Dad. They sang together in the Ascension Choir and could often be found either talking or playing music.
Rich Spangler died suddenly at home on Wednesday, May 25, 2011, following a long illness. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Maura, and sons Michael and Peter; his sisters Patricia Greim, Mary Therese Glynn and Laura Bullotta; and his brothers, James and John.
Funeral Mass was celebrated on June 1 at Ascension Catholic Church.