Orville L. Spiva, Jr. - Husband, Father, Friend - 1949-2017
A lifelong resident of Kansas, Orville L. Spiva, Jr., was born the only child to Orville and Frances (Yuran) Spiva on April 7th, 1949. He attended Bishop Ward High School, then went on to serve both overseas in Vietnam and at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, as a Radio Cryptography Specialist in the Army from 1969 until 1971 during the Vietnam War. Orville later became a Lifetime Member of both VFW Post 846, and American Legion 370. He was married at the age of 25, and welcomed his first and only child the next year.
His primary professional trade was commercial metal lath and plaster, with Union membership, but he was also adept in carpentry, plumbing, electrical, concrete work, roofing, welding, and painting. His wealth of knowledge and understanding was hard won through self-teaching and apprenticeship - begetting an approach which, at times, demonstrated the patient finesse expected of Michelangelo birthing The Pieta and, at others, the daring enthusiasm of a man who never dreamed small. No matter the endeavor, it was hand-signed with just the right amount of ingenuity and his seldom-paralleled pride in craftsmanship.
Orville's early interests included restoring his 1955 Chevy, road tripping around the US in his Jeep, dinner cruises on the Missouri River Queen, wood working, leather craft, stained glass, playing chess, the studies of logic and real estate law, drafting and architecture, ornamental welding, and self-study in mechanics. Early accomplishments included building, at the age of 17, a fully-outfitted two car garage which doubled as a workshop and included an attached dog house with a back door that opened up into that garage. A curious person who had a zeal for learning, he firmly believed that where there was a will, there was a way; if he didn't already have it, he would acquire the knowledge necessary to bring his vision to fruition.
Later accomplishments included learning to tolerate a strong-willed daughter, and remaining steadfast in his 14 year commitment to sobriety; rest assured that neither of those tasks were small. After 42 years of marriage to his wife, Carol, and one year before his passing, he celebrated the renewal of their marriage vows. Of special note is a project in which he took great pride: creating a sizeable office addition for his family chiropractor of 45 years. Every phase of this structure, from blueprints to backhoe to framing and beyond was completed by Orville without the aid of subcontractors.
As the years progressed, he remained engaged with the business of living and self-development through activities such as reading, singing in the Choir at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church where he was a parishioner, spending time with family, appreciating sunsets and listening to Old Radio programs with his wife, and tinkering around the house on various projects with her help. He further defined his mastery of dog house building by creating even larger versions boasting breezeways, lighting, insulation, windows, radios, and shingled rooftops.
His marked appreciation for "getting his hands dirty" translated into the arts of avid vegetable gardening and expert-level rose and zinnia growing, which developed after years of caring for an elderly widowed neighbor's property under her direction and learning what she had to teach in the process. Complimented by a deep fondness for cultivating other flowers, shrubs, trees, the landscapes in which they flourished, and the creatures who shared that space, Orville's love of songbirds found him feeding them well with a buffet of assorted seed and suet varieties from hand-constructed and store-bought feeders, alike, while allowing plenty of "extra" for the squirrels, too.
Orville's gregarious, big-hearted personality always had room for a joke or two. Recognizing that humor was its own reward, and the next best thing to pie as a cure for nearly every ill, he often sought relief from his troubles in the humor of British comedies, The Marx Brothers, and The Three Stooges - the latter of which was frequently echoed in his own playfulness. He was always up for the thrill of Humphrey Bogart or Alfred Hitchcock, and the wit of Mark Twain was rarely if ever lost on him. Music was also of great influence on Orville, and his tastes ranged in genre from Big Band to Classic Rock to Gospel and many more, between.
The concept of service was so important to Orville, it became his guiding principle. Reflected first in service to his Country despite reservations, his convictions carried over into years of passionate involvement with the POW/MIA cause through the Our Forgotten Brothers organization, annual Rolling Thunder Run for the Wall events, and a trip to Washington DC to speak with government officials in petition for their support.
As his years of sobriety accumulated, and his reconnection with Faith strengthened, the scope of his service expanded its reach to increased participation in Alcoholics Anonymous through regular attendance, administrative duties, providing transport to meetings for treatment center clients, and eventually leading onsite Twelve Step meetings for inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility. On a personal level, Orville's earnest dedication to living the Twelve Steps and the spiritual principles on which they are based substantiated his efforts to make amends for the damage over three decades of addiction had caused. He understood that recovery was a many-layered process, as was the rebuilding of relationships. He aimed for success humbly; ever grateful for second chances at living and loving, and made it a point to open every talk he gave at a meeting with, "My God, thank you for these gifts."
His generous nature, profound faith, instinctive teaching abilities, and hard-earned wisdom combined in orienting Orville toward being a leader, both directly and by example. Above all things he was committed to that in which he believed, and to those who sought his assistance; sharing his experience, strength, and hope with all he encountered in one way or another. When he wasn't inspiring others to strive for greater heights personally and spiritually, he was frequently drawing upon his resources and vast skill set to come to their aid in a material sense. Stranded motorists and injured animals not excluded, no mission, cause, or fellow human was beneath him and he made friends easily nearly everywhere he went. Whether random acquaintance or lifelong friend, his desire to elevate others to a higher place did not discriminate and its expressions were self-sustaining. He was known for quoting John Lennon in saying, "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end," because he believed it.
In many ways, his life's story was a study in perseverance: overcoming adversity from the loss of his own father at the tender age of five, and the loss of his mother while overseas, he persisted through a myriad of other acute challenges which could have easily overwhelmed his peers. Case in point: a near-death experience by way of a large tree which snapped in half during a microburst and fell on him in 2011; resulting in a broken neck, broken nose, broken brow bone, several skull fractures, nearly two months in the hospital, and multiple reconstructive surgeries. During one of those surgeries, Orville became the proud new owner of a 2" screw which reconnected his spine to his skull. Not missing a beat, he went on to refer to it as the one little thing that ensured his "head was screwed on straight." Enduring his last years with both a permanent tracheotomy and permanent feeding tube, multiple rounds of infection, pneumonia, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, he still outlasted the series of prognoses given by his oncologist; refusing to give up without a fight.
Orville passed away gently at the age of 68 on the morning of Sunday, November 26, 2017, in Hospice Care at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, with one hand in his wife's, and the other hand in his daughter's. His immediate survivors are his wife of 43 years, Carol (Lambert), and daughter, Jenesa Lynn Spiva. A remarkably authentic man who was dearly loved and will be dearly missed, but who will live on in the legacy of truths that he represented and taught... as long as we carry his influence for better and look for him in rainbows.
A Prayer Service will be 10:30AM, Wednesday December 6th with a Celebration of Life following from 11:00AM to 12:30pm at Skradski Funeral Home, 340 North 6th Street, Kansas City, Kansas. Burial will follow at 2:30PM the same day, in Leavenworth National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages contributions in Orville's honor to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Charitable Service Trust at https://cst.dav.org/Default.aspx.
"It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit