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John Wendell Spalding, age 89 of Granger, passed away surrounded by his loving family and dearest friends on Sunday, August 20, 2023. John was born March 1, 1934, in Mishawaka, Indiana to the late Wendell and Mary (Shively) Spalding. A 1952 graduate of Mishawaka High School, John went on to obtain a BS from Northwestern University in 1956, a MA from the University of Michigan in 1957, and a PhD. from the department of Speech at the University of Michigan in 1961. Thirty years following his graduation, John was invited back to Mishawaka High School to be the commencement speaker at his niece’s graduation ceremony where he provided motivation and inspiration to the class of 1982 through his experience as a professor and expert in film and television.
John is survived by his nieces and nephews, Andy (Jan) Spalding of Mishawaka, Mike (Muff) Spalding of South Bend, Katy (George) Cressy, John (Georgia) Spalding and MaryJo (Brad) Meier, all of Mishawaka. Surviving as well are 19 grandnieces and grandnephews, George (Mariah) Cressy, Ana (Matt) Soutra, Maggie Cressy (Killian Probst), David Spalding, Tony (Tori) Spalding, Gia Spalding, Josie Cressy, Bill Spalding, Annie (Adam) Hufford, Frankie Spalding (Cameron Thomas), Sam Cressy, John Spalding, Jack Spalding, Scout Spalding, Evie Cressy, Charlie Meier, Joey Meier, Albert Spalding, Lilly Meier, great grandnephews, George, Jamey, and Sidney Cressy, great grandniece, Olly Soutra, his cousins, Ann Carlson and Rosemary Renwick, his surrogate sons Tod Orblych and Bob Gonzales of New York City, New York, his sister-in-law, Rosemary Spalding of Mishawaka, his best friend and caregiver, Carol McCaffery, and his former caretaker, Andrea Lee. He was preceded in death by his brother, David L. Spalding, MD.
A graveside service will be held at 3:00pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023, on the grounds of St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park in Granger where John will be laid to rest beside his parents and his brother. Wells and Cruz Family Funeral Home (Formerly Goethals and Wells) has been entrusted with his care.
John’s impact on the worlds of academia, radio, tv and film, and personal connections was immeasurable. His illustrious career of an impressive 34 years as a professor of speech and communication arts began at Western Washington College in Bellingham, WA, included time at Ohio University in Athens, OH, and culminated at Wayne State University where he would spend the majority of his professional life, leaving an indelible mark on the countless lives he touched. John's theories and influences reached far beyond the classroom, resonating with students across the globe. A mentor to hundreds, his guidance shaped the careers of emerging media scholars, media artists and technicians, and filmmakers, instilling in them a deep appreciation for the art of storytelling.
As a young Boy Scout, John found a love for nature at an early age, and his love for the great outdoors remained steadfast throughout his life. The joy of camping and the beauty of national parks were his escapes—a chance to recharge his spirit and find tranquility amidst nature's grandeur.
He delighted in the shared experiences of travel, creating memories that would be cherished forever. Among his favorite destinations was London, England where he was known to take in two theatre shows daily, further enriching his already expansive artistic palette. Though he traveled widely, John’s favorite place in the world was his beloved lake house in Forest Lake, MI where he spent his retirement years canoeing and gardening.
A true connoisseur of film and theater, John's daily routine often included watching movies and listening to show tunes, followed by in-depth discussions with Tod over the telephone. He helped people see that film itself was a canvas and the story and everything else were the vibrant colors that brought a production to life. John also possessed the gift of storytelling and captivated those listening with his numerous stories and the knowledge he possessed regarding a vast array of subjects.
John served on the Board of Directors of the University Film and Video Association, a role he held with dedication and honor. His commitment to the organization and his participation in numerous film conferences showcased his passion for sharing the art of film and video with fellow academics, professionals, and enthusiasts.
Meticulous and precise in his craft, John's attention to detail was unparalleled. His reserved demeanor hid a genuine desire to forge meaningful connections, especially within his family. His thoughtful gifts to nieces and nephews bore witness to his affection, fostering bonds that deepened with time.
The family thanks Carol McCaffery, Andrea Lee, and Samantha Fisher for their kind, compassionate, and consistent care. We are so very grateful for all you did! We also thank Velvet and Heather from Heart to Heart Hospice for their gentle and skilled attention to John's medical needs and for always treating him with respect.
To light a virtual candle, share a story of John’s life, or leave a message of comfort for his family, please follow the links provided on the Tribute Wall tab above. Donations can be made to Mishawaka High School and West Branch High School in West Branch, MI, where John would often be seen on a pleasant fall or spring evening watching football or soccer games.