Sylvia A. Spellman, age 98 ½ of Littleton, CO passed away on Wednesday, July 4, 2018 in her home.
Sylvia Angela Sobolik was born on December 7, 1919 at her family farm near Veseleyville, ND. This close-knit, Czech community created a foundation focused on their Catholic faith, and deep love of family. Sylvia was firstborn to Clara (Karnik) Sobolik and John Sobolik. Brother Lynus was born in 1921, followed by Gerald (Bud) in 1925, John (Jack) in 1929, and Clair in 1932. Sylvia and her brothers were raised in Ops Township, in Walsh County. They spent time on the family farm, and their home in Voss, ND. Sylvia and her brothers spent much time with their extended family, including double-cousins. They shared stories of sleigh rides and home-made ice cream, cooking for crews during threshing and the hard work that was integral to farm life. Their narrative was shared with their kids whenever Sylvia and her brothers reunited in later years and reminisced. The siblings recalled misbehavior with laughter, and filled our imaginations. Sylvia attended elementary school in Veseleyville and Pisek, ND, and high school in Grand Rapids, MN. She left high school to return to North Dakota to help her family during the Great Depression. Sylvia loved to read, and was a life-long learner. She enjoyed attending dances with Big Bands that visited the Minto Pavilion and other nearby towns. Sylvia delighted in sharing that her dance card was always full. Her family enjoyed music, and she loved to sing. Her dad played the concertina, and her grandfather was the leader of a band.
Sylvia was united in marriage to John Kowalski in Salinas, KS on January 11, 1943. They were both 23. They had intended to marry after the War, but John asked Sylvia to meet him in Kansas when he was on furlough from Fort Bragg, North Carolina before going overseas. John was a staff sergeant in the Eighth Air Force Bombers. His B-Seventeen, The Black Swan, was shot down by a Messerschmitt returning from a bombing mission over Nantes, France on July 4, 1943. None of his squadron returned. Her beloved father, John Sobolik, passed the same year on December 25th.
Sylvia worked at the State School in Grafton, ND for several years, and later moved to Grand Forks. She loved fashion, and worked for R.A. Herbergers. In 1950, Sylvia returned to Minto, ND to help her mother with the family hardware store. There, she met William “Bill” Spellman, who was working on a nearby installation for Western Electric. Bill had served in World War II in the Asia-Pacific War, and had been stationed on Midway Island. After an honorable discharge, he began his career at Western Electric in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. He worked across the Midwest installing telecommunications infrastructure. A project took Bill to Minto, ND, where Sylvia caught his eye while hanging laundry on her mother’s clothesline. He set about intelligence gathering, managed an introduction, and started courting Sylvia. When his project was completed in Minto, he returned to Omaha. He drove every weekend to see Sylvia, a 523 mile trek. They married at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Minto on June 19, 1951 and were married for 43 years.
Sylvia and Bill made their first home in Omaha, NE. Gary was born on September 30, 1952, and they enjoyed time with Bill’s large Irish family. Bill was transferred to Fargo, ND in 1956, and while they missed Bill’s family and close friends, they were excited to be closer to Sylvia’s mother and brothers’ families in Minto, Park River, Grafton, and Eden Valley. Shellee was born in October, 1958. Sylvia was a volunteer at the Veterans Hospital, and involved in Holy Spirit Catholic Church and school, the Ladies Auxiliary, and working on political campaigns. She deeply enjoyed her friendships with the ladies of 24th Avenue. They paused each day from their routines to have coffee, while all the kids played or eavesdropped on the mama conversations.
In 1968, Bill accepted a promotion at Western Electric, and the family moved to Littleton, CO. Sylvia became involved in St. Anne’s Circle, and the Altar and Rosary Society at Saint Mary of Littleton. She remained active in these groups throughout her life. Sylvia would start each day by walking to 6:30 Mass at the Carmelite Monastery. At 90, she conceded that she could use a ride and began daily Mass at her home parish of St. Mary with Elnore and Gerry Nau.
Sylvia’s brothers played baseball, honing her love for the sport. She was a loyal and fervent Rockies fan. She cared deeply about her community, and was involved in various philanthropies throughout her life. She and Bill enjoyed neighborhood and work friendships and shared a love of camping and travel. Their family loved spending time in Minnesota at the lakes, and visiting National Parks across the Western U.S. Sylvia continued to travel after Bill passed away in 1995, visiting Germany, Austria, and the Panama Canal.
Sylvia’s life was centered in Christ, and her Catholic faith and family were the essence of her being. She was firm in her convictions and lived her values. She was gentle, but lived passionately. She loved her brothers, their wives, and every one of her 40 nieces and nephews. Sylvia had a natural love for people. She wanted to know them, and understand what they loved. Each relationship was important and personal, whether family or friend. She took pride in her home, her garden, her baking and meals. She and her mother made caramel rolls, kolaché and rohliky, and a host of Czech foods that is fondly remembered by her family. Sylvia was the best mother. She poured her energy into Gary and Shellee, giving them acceptance and grace, inspiration and love. At age 80, Sylvia’s lifelong dream of becoming a grandmother came to fruition. Shellee’s daughter, Shanley, was born February 14, 2000. Shanley is the love of her grandma’s life, and they have both been blessed by their deep and abiding connection.
Sylvia is survived by her children: Gary Spellman, Littleton, CO; Shellee Spellman, Littleton, CO and granddaughter, Shanley Spellman, Littleton, CO. Also surviving are her brother, Clair Sobolik (Grace) of Grand Rapids, MN, and sister-in-law Shirley Sobolik of Park River, ND. She has 35 living nieces and nephews.
Sylvia was preceded in death by her parents John Sobolik (1943); Clara Sobolik (1981); husband John Kowalski (1943); husband William Spellman (1995); brother Lynus (Toodie) (2009); brother Gerald “Bud” (Shirley) (2012); brother Jack (Millie) (2012); sister-in-law Mary (Ted) Dubas (2005), brother-in-law Pat (Mary) Spellman (2008) , brother-in-law Ed (Mary) Spellman (1986), sister-in-law Ann (John) Traynor (1979), and sister-in-law Martha (John) Szurpicki) (1997).
Mass of Christian Burial will be Thursday, July 19th at 10:00 A.M. at St. Mary Catholic Church in Littleton, CO. Interment will be at Fort Logan Cemetery.
Rosary will be Wednesday, July 18th at 7:00 P.M. at St. Mary Catholic Church in Littleton, CO
In lieu of flowers, pleased consider donations in Sylvia’s honor to one of the following:
Carmelite Monastery, 6138 S. Gallup St., Littleton, CO 80120
Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, 6853 South Prince Street, Littleton, CO 80120
Dysautonomia International – dysautonomiainternational.org