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Farewell but Not Goodbye to Walt Spiegel

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Over ten years ago Walt Spiegel planned to start his own handyman business. He had already turned in his resignation to Mashburn Construction, where he was the superintendent who oversaw construction of the Heathwood’s Athletic Center and the Chapel, in order to fulfill that dream. The day after resigning from Mashburn he got a call from Heathwood Assistant Head of School Liz Summers asking him to become Heathwood’s Director of Facilities and Management.

Walt and his wife prayed over this opportunity, and decided that this course redirection was divinely inspired. He accepted Heathwood’s offer.

Liz Summers said, “I met Walt 13 years ago when he worked as a project manager for the company constructing the Athletic Center. He was so helpful and knowledgeable about the things ‘behind the walls’ that when we started building the Chapel, we asked for him to be assigned to that project, too. He really seemed to understand what was important to us at Heathwood and worked very hard to be sure we got two very high quality buildings. About six months after the Chapel was finished, the plant manager at the time decided to leave Heathwood. Walt was the first person I thought of to take on the plant management responsibilities, and those of us who had worked with him on the Athletic Center and the Chapel were thrilled when he said yes to an offer of employment. Over the past 10.5 years, Walt’s skills, knowledge, and leadership have enhanced Heathwood’s buildings and grounds to the level they hold today.”

“I will miss the people here,” Walt said. “This school has got great faculty and staff here, and a good track record of getting good people to come in. They feel welcomed and fit right in. I’ll also miss the food. Jim and his staff do a great job!

“One thing I won’t miss are the squirrels. They will find the smallest hole and get in. Then they chew the wires. I’ve had teachers call me and tell me that there’s something in their ceilings and we’d have to get rid of them. I told people we’d trap them and take them to Hammond,” Walt laughed.

“We’ve had all kinds of wildlife. We had beavers here and I looked for them everywhere because they were destroying the trees. The Kindergarten class knew where they were but wouldn’t tell me. I overhead them say, ‘Don’t tell Mr. Walt,’” Walt said. But he eventually found the beavers and remained friends with the kindergartners.

The flood of 2015 and its impact on the Heathwood campus was something to fear, so Walt and Donnie Bain came to the campus to assess the damage. “Donnie and I met at the road after it had stopped raining and waded in. The water was still rising and we weren’t sure what we’d find,” Walt said. “When we got to the gate we could see the campus rising up from the water. We had thought we were going to have to relocate classes from the Lower School and pods, but we didn’t need to. We dodged a bullet that day. A few more inches and the ECLC would have flooded. It was one of those times when God was looking out for us.

“Because Heathwood was spared, we were able to help other people. Susannah Cook was a big part in arranging donations for different needs. We were able to help out the community. Everybody here jumped in and helped,” Walt said.

“So many things have happened with this job,” he said. “There are so many things this job gets you into. I’ve done some of the dirtiest work with Johnny. We have crawled under the trailers and through broken sewer lines. We’ve done everything.”

“Walt is a great leader, and never asks someone to do something he wouldn’t do himself,” Liz said. “He proved that over and over, climbing on roofs, wrangling the occasional snake, crawling under trailers to check the plumbing and driving to Florida in the middle of the night to pick up students and teachers when their bus broke down on a Winterim trip.” 

Walt said, “I’ve always enjoyed making things better. The challenge itself is figuring out how to do things, especially on a limited budget, and we were successful at this.”

“I’ve always enjoyed being around the kids,” Walt said. “All the age groups are great. I especially enjoyed seeing them grow up and change over the years.” Walt especially enjoyed working with Jeff Whalen and the coaches in the athletics department. “That’s one department that never shuts down.

“I appreciate the years here and have wonderful memories. I’m not going away,” Walt said.

 

Walt has opened up a small carpentry and handyman service that does residential and light commercial customers. If you need help with a project you can reach Walt at (803) 261-7816 or at walterspiegel@windstream.net.