Thomas Theodore Speckhard, 89, died peacefully on January 15, 2020. Born on November 10, 1930 in Clintonville, Wisconsin to Reverend Walter O. Speckhard and Louise (Andres) Speckhard, Tom grew up very close to his nine siblings, and was known for his gentle spirit. He was quick to laugh, very loving and kind, and remained very close to his family as it grew to abundant proportions.
Survived by his sisters Marian and Judith, brothers Gerald, Mark, and John, brothers-in-law Jerrold and Stan, sisters-in-law Marjorie, Johanna, Myrna, Gloria, and Angelika, three sons, three daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren, two grandchildren-in-law, and four great-grandchildren, along with 38 beloved nieces and nephews and their spouses and children, Tom was always surrounded by loved ones.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, spouse Carol, daughter Kathleen, sister Marjorie, brothers Walter, Karl, and Luther, sisters-in-law Ann and Dorothy, brothers-in-law Delmar and Paul, and nephew Ted.
A nature-lover, Tom spent much of his youth swimming and exploring at the family cottage on Pine Lake in Clintonville and playing hockey with his brothers on the wind-swept frozen lake in the winters. As a young father, he had the vision to buy a run-down island on Clear Lake in Woodruff, Wisconsin, where he devoted his summers over many years turning it into a treasured oasis for the extended family and friends.
With a love and gift for encouraging and serving others, Tom attended Concordia Teacher’s College in River Forest and after earning his degree returned to Clintonville, where he taught at the elementary school and served as the youth director for the church his father pastored. His spiritual devotion led him to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis for pastoral training. In his summers off, Tom hitchhiked back to Clintonville (which he assured his grandchildren was a normal means of transport at that time), where he was lucky enough to start dating Carol Buerer, the beautiful, whip-smart and sometimes shy transplant from Villa Park, Illinois which he had first encountered as a church youth director. Tom and Carol married in a candlelit evening ceremony in St. Martin Church in Clintonville on July 9, 1955, and began a family, doting on their daughter Kathleen and sons Daniel, Thomas, and James, and remained married until Carol passed away on their 49th wedding anniversary on July 9, 2004.
After completing seminary, he taught German and Religion at Denver Lutheran High School before accepting a call as a Lutheran pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Muscoda, Wisconsin. After a number of years of devoted service, he realized that his calling could better be served through teaching.
Having a great grandfather who immigrated from Germany and started the first faith-based school for the deaf in the United States, Tom grew up hearing German around the house. Having an interest in the wider world and foreign languages, he got his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and became a German teacher at Wausau West, where he taught and became the beloved “Herr Speckhard” to generations of students.
Having an adventurous and curious spirit, Tom took his family overseas in 1969 on a teacher exchange, immersing his family completely into the foreign culture and sparking an interest in his children that would lead his oldest son, Daniel, to become a U.S. Ambassador and with his spouse, Anne, an expert in counter-terrorism, to spend more than a decade serving the country overseas with their children, Leah, Jessica, and Daniel Thomas. This same spirit led a number of the grandchildren to live, study and work overseas.
A gifted singer, Tom sang with his siblings and passed along his love of music to his children, leading his son, Thomas, to a life as a professional singer, voice coach, and church music director. Tom loved to watch his son and daughter-in-law, Maureen, also a music director, perform and give back at church, and was always ready to break into song with their children, Aidan and Sophie.
Responsible and steadfast, Tom was also very close to his youngest son, Jim, who shared his father's dedication to his community in Wausau, along with his quiet but vibrant sense of humor and love of travel. Jim became a banker and real estate investor in the Wausau area, and followed in his father's footsteps as a member of Zion Lutheran Church and its choir. In recent years, Tom sold his house in Wausau, Wisconsin, and lived with Jim and his wife Lori (nee Matti) in Rothschild, Wisconsin, who both cared for him with much love and dedication as his health slowly declined up until the moment of his passing.
A kind and loving parent, Tom was heartbroken to lose his oldest child, daughter Kathleen in 2006 after her battle with cancer, and was so proud of what a wonderful and dedicated mother she was to her four children (Ian, Rachel, Jack, and Rebeccah). Kathy shared her father's beautiful voice, gentle spirit, and love of travel and nature, and was often found laughing near him.
Tom's grandchildren counted him as one of their closest friends and counted down the days every year until they got to spend time with him. He was always there for them whenever they needed, and they knew he was a rock that they could always count on. Tom delighted in their accomplishments and held them in their sorrows as if they were his own joys and burdens, and every question was worth an earnest answer, no matter their age.
Tom taught by example and gentle words to each of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that everyone is precious in God’s sight and worthy of love. Though they cannot imagine life on earth without him, they know that he will always be in their hearts and on their minds, an influence even when not thought of consciously, and a gift that they are lucky to carry into each day. Never happier than on Clear Lake with family nearby, Tom helped give his family a beautiful meeting place where they will continue to feel him in the air and the water, almost visible just past each pine tree and under each wave, smiling and waiting for them to share life's greatest joy - loving each other.
Visitation will be held Friday, January 31, from 4-7 p.m. at the Helke Funeral Home in Wausau. Funeral Services will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Zion Lutheran Church, in Wausau with a visitation beginning at 9:30 am prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome memorial contributions made to Lutheran World Relief or the American Cancer Society. Interment will be in St. Martin Lutheran Cemetery, Clintonville, where he will rest in peace next to beloved family members.
You may sign the family guestbook at www.helke.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome memorial contributions made to Lutheran World Relief or the American Cancer Society. Please see below for more information.