Dr. Richard Spangler, 56, pediatrician, Ascension parishioner

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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.

Reader Comments

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Tammy from Chicago  

Posted: July 11th, 2011 8:56 AM

I have 3 kids and Dr. Spangler has been my pediatrician for 12 years. We are so sad to hear of his passing! At every single office visit he would say 'you're doing a great job.' He had such a gentle, supportive nature. He was truly a healing angel. I thank God for lending him to us for a short while.

Dorothy from Chicago  

Posted: June 30th, 2011 11:14 PM

Dr. Spangler was our pediatrician for my two sons now 2 and 6. I wanted to share my thoughts and prayers for his family. He was one of the best doctors I have ever known and I feel fortunate that he was there to guide me through the first couple of years of parenthood. He truly made the world a better place. My boys will miss him dearly.

Jessica Stephany from Lynwood IL  

Posted: June 28th, 2011 2:57 AM

I knew Dr. Spangler since 1997 he was my 2 kids pediatrician from day 1. I couldn't believe in my eyes when I heard the news about his death my mouth drop. He was extremely a nice man to me and my kids. Honesty, I don't ever think I would find a wonderful man like Dr. Spangler. When I saw him recently he looked fine. You were a good doctor to my kids and many other to their kids. I'm sorry for your loss to the Spangler family R.I.P. RICHARD SPANGLER YOU WILL BE TRULY MISSED.

La Tonya F. James from Elmhurst  

Posted: June 26th, 2011 10:42 PM

As a young single mother, barely out of my teens, I was fortunate to find Dr. Spangler, after an initial disappointing experience with another pediatrician after the birth of my then new born son, who will celebrate his 19th birthday in July. Two additonal children later, Dr. Spangler has been an integral part of our lives. His sincere dedication to his patients and time spent with parents, has made an indelible impact on my life and the lives of my children. We will truly miss him. God Bless!

Arelis Rivera from Suwanee, Georgia  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 3:12 PM

My children and myself have known Dr.Spangler since my first son Jiovani was born 24 years ago. I was also shocked about his death and felt sad. My son shared my feelings when I spoke to him over the phone as he is in Afghanistan serving our country. God bless the family.

Antoinette from Chicago  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 12:26 PM

I have been priviledged to have had my three children under his care for the past 9 years. My first born was 10 wks premature and as a new mother, Dr. Spangler assured me that I was doing a good job. My daughter is a young girl now completely healthy, just as my other two children. While there are many doctors out there just as professional and as good - Dr. Spangler was genuinely kind hearted. He truly cared for his patients and it showed. May he rest in peace!

Morgan from Chicago  

Posted: June 8th, 2011 1:45 PM

To the family and friends: when I was pregnant last year, I went on a search for an older, experienced, calm doctor who supported breastfed children. Our insurance was a very limited. I was overjoyed to find Dr. Spangler and instantly liked him during our "meet and greet" interview. My daughter was lucky enough to receive a year of care from him. He made me look forward to appointments. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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