Gordon Eugene Speer of Sterling, Illinois, passed away June 5th, 2019, while under the exceptional care of Cedar Lake Memory Care in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and JourneyCare hospice. Gordon was born on Christmas Day 1933, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of the late Harland Russell and Frances May (nee French) Speer.
Gordon graduated from Monmouth College in 1955, where he earned the Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry, studying chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and science education. He minored in music, played in the Concert Band and sang in the Monmouth College Choir where he met the love of his life, Elizabeth Lucille Glenn. Gordon travelled and sang with the Monmouth College Men’s Quartet, preached as part of the Gospel Team (who conducted services in 5 states), and was captain of the rifle competition team. He also was a member of the American Chemical Society and the honorary music fraternity Pi Alpha Nu.
At Sterling Township High School, Gordon taught physics, chemistry, general science, algebra, and computer programming for 32 years (1956-1988.) He earned a Master of Arts Degree from Northern Michigan University Marquette in the teaching of science: chemistry and biology. Gordon was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship and participated in three NSF Summer Institutes, at the University of Southern California (modern concepts in nuclear, atomic, and molecular physics); the University of California San Francisco (history and philosophy of science); and with Iowa State University Extension at Philmont Scout Ranch (Boy Scouts of America) in New Mexico (geology and earth science.) In 1985-86 Gordon applied and passed the initial screening for the NASA Teacher in Space Program, which was designed “to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in making a significant contribution toward furthering the role of education in the United States.”
Gordon loved all things mechanical—boats, cars planes, computers, and electronics alike. In his spare time he operated his own businesses: Speer Electronics Service; Speer Tax Services; SMILES (“Speer Miles” Automotive Transport Services); he worked for the Illinois DOT as a highway designer and the Byron Nuclear Station as a fire watch guard. For many years Gordon penned computer solutions and ideas in the monthly column “Gordon Speer’s Corner” as a contributing editor of H & E Computronics (TRS-80 Magazine); he sold collectable books to customers around the world on his own website.
Gordon took his family on camping trips throughout the United States in his custom designed and built recreational vehicles. He was a member of the EAA (International Experimental Aircraft Association) and Twin Cities Flying Club of Sterling-Rock Falls, Illinois. He enjoyed flying several types of planes and even built his own experimental aircraft, an Aerosport Quail. Gordon participated in a record seven-day construction of a complete airplane at the Oshkosh, Wisconsin Convention of the EAA. Gordon had a beautiful singing voice and was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church and its adult choir in Sterling.
Gordon was preceded in death by his beloved wife Liz, whom he married on September 3, 1955. Gordon is survived by his devoted sister Roberta Speer Parkinson, loving daughters Sue (Mark) Cunningham, Shari Speer (Jeffrey Stirling), and Sara (the late Keith) Zawila; his treasured grandchildren Krysta (Orlando) Mendoza, Allyson Cunningham, and Kevin Zawila; and his cherished great-grandchildren Madilynn and Markus Mendoza.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, June 22nd at 10:30 am at First Presbyterian Church, 410 2nd Avenue, Sterling Illinois. A graveside service will be held on Sunday, June 30th at the Biggsville Cemetery in Biggsville, Illinois.
Memorial donations may be made to Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois or the First Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Illinois.