Dr Edith Calvert Spees was born at Calvert Farms in Richmond, MO on June 27, 1936. Her mother was a college educated flapper and pilot, turned agri-business woman. Her father was an internationally trained banker and pilot, turned cutting edge cattleman. Edie was the 2nd of 3 children and showed horses from the 1940s into the 1970s.
Edie attended and worked at many colleges and universities including Stanford, University of Arkansas, Harvard Radcliffe, University of Florida, Claremont, and SIU. She was required to wear a hat and white gloves to interview at Stanford, had to fight to be granted her BA at U of A, graduated Harvard Radcliffe before they gave women degrees (for the same program the men attended), was an RA during the Cuban Missile Crisis at U of F where she received her Master’s, navigated the protests in the late 1960s in southern California, achieved her PhD in 1968 from Claremont Graduate School, and landed at SIU Carbondale (during the riots) on the day Old Main burned.
Professionally, Edie was a fierce protector of the less advantaged and downtrodden. At one time, she was the only non-Jewish professional at a major Jewish hospital. She always laughed as she said she and her clients had great successes there because she was never told she was hired to work with a population that “could not” make progress! She was an early advocate for the blind and wheelchair student populations. She was instrumental in the handicapped accessibility of the SIU campus and even taught self-defense to students in wheelchairs. She was also a licensed mediator and fought for job equality across the region and even in the mining industry.
Being available and always on call had rewards and dangers. Edith was no stranger to civil unrest, riots, dangerous school systems, hospital calls, psychotic and suicidal emergencies, local jails, the prison system, and was often escorted by law enforcement officers for protection. She was the person who answered the calls that later went to 911, the runaway hotline, domestic abuse reporting, and suicide prevention programs. She was the ultimate secret keeper and never betrayed the privacy of those she served. As one medical professional said, there are thousands of people who will mourn her passing in the secrecy of their hearts.
In her private life, Edie was a wife, Nanna, mother to dozens, aunt, consummate hostess, avid traveler, and nature lover. She was married over 52 years, raised two children, spoiled two grandchildren, and was loved by all of her bonus children all over the world. She welcomed thousands of friends, international students, fraternity and sorority members, Rotarians, Lions, and high school exchange students. She traveled to over a dozen countries and kayaked for hours a day until the age of 75.
She is survived by her husband Emil, her daughter Elizabeth, grandsons Logan and Trey, one brother, sisters-in-law, many nieces and nephews, scores of “bonus” children, dear dear friends and her “best dog” Snowflake. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Dr William P Calvert, and her loving son Ray Calvert Spees.
In lieu of flowers, please make contributions through the banner available on www.sicf.org website. Memorial gifts will benefit the African American Museum, The Science Center, and the Southern Illinois Collaborative Kitchen.
She adored life even throughout her journey with Huntington’s Disease. She would want everyone to know that she CELEBRATED EVERYTHING and, “It was GOOD to know you.”