On fire to volunteer

Mickey Spaeth is pictured here among the work she is about to begin this morning during her weekly volunteer venture with St. Mary’s School.

This week is one of recognition for Marie “Mickey” Spaeth, especially for her work with St. Mary’s Catholic School.

During the 24th annual Celebration of Catholic Schools this Saturday, Spaeth will be recognized as the 2011 Catholic School Honoree for St. Mary’s in Gainesville for her many years of teaching, volunteering and service with the school.

During the celebration at the Fort Worth Convention Center Ballroom, honorees from throughout the diocese will be recognized for their contributions to their school communities. The evening will include featured speaker Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, student musicians, a student choir and student artwork will be on display.

This Thursday Spaeth will also receive her pin for 8,000 volunteer hours from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Association for her work in the community, which includes being a “Pink Lady” at North Texas Medical Center.

St. Mary’s School has been a part of Spaeth’s life since 1955 when she enrolled her two children in kindergarten and first-grade.

In 1958 she took on the teacher position for the half-day kindergarten class and taught at the school for 22 years.

“It was a true blessing to be part of each student’s life and see them grow in their faith,” Spaeth said.

She retired from teaching to care for her aging parents, and then returned to St. Mary’s as a volunteer in 1989.

Each week she works one day at St. Mary’s School and helps teachers and staff with whatever project is at hand. Projects include grading papers, making quilts for the school’s annual Fall Festival and making cushions for the benches in the school hall.

“Anything that is asked of her, she will find a way to do it at no cost to the school,” her daughter Patsy Henry (now a kindergarten teacher at St. Mary’s) said. “She was instrumental in financing the Early Learning Center wing of the school by purchasing all the furnishings in the classrooms. She has worked for years at the Fall Festival selling raffle tickets throughout the day. She also makes cinnamon rolls for each of the Knights of Columbus breakfasts because she wants to show them that she appreciates all that they do for the school.”

Catholic education and St. Mary’s School have long been a priority for Spaeth and she has been a strong supporter of both.

“I have seen first hand, that the emphasis taught in Catholic schools on personal responsibility and the attention given to the development of good study skills, has made the transition to higher education easier for students,” Spaeth said. “I feel that Catholic schools focus on academic excellence, discipline and personal integrity.”

Spaeth said it was hard at times to send her children to Catholic school.

“There were many sacrifices made, but we would do it all over again,” she continued.

Over the years she and her late husband, Henry, have given financial support to the school and donated toward projects and items including basketball goals for the gym.

Meanwhile her two children and six grandchildren graduated from St. Mary’s, and two great-grandchildren are currently attending there.

Muenster is where she was born and raised.

“Muenster is a small town that was settled by German Catholics,” she noted. “My parents raised their family in the Catholic faith and sacrificed to send each of their six children to Sacred Heart Catholic School in Muenster.”

In 1947 she married Henry Spaeth and they had two children, David and Patsy.

As for any spare time, that is mostly spent with her seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

“She is a talented seamstress and made many prom and bridesmaid dresses and still makes all her own clothes,” Henry said. “She has made over 50 quilts for her children and grandchildren.”

Two people were especially influential in Spaeth’s life — her uncle Bishop Augustine Dangelmayr and uncle Father Henry Felderhoff.

“They taught me many things about my faith,” she said. “Most importantly, they taught me that Catholicism is something to be proud of and to embrace. Being Catholic makes you special and different...and that it is something to celebrate.”

Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., Spaeth came through the doors of St. Mary’s School to start her volunteer day and sat down to a table of papers to sort through and grade.

“I give a lot of credit to volunteering,” Spaeth noted. “I’m almost 87 years old and I think volunteering is what has helped me to be healthy and keep me here and going. Everyone should volunteer. If I weren’t here, I would be at home. This gets me out and keeps me active and doing something important.

“My Catholic faith runs deep within me,” Spaeth added, “and I feel God has blessed me in many ways and I am to share my time, talents and treasures with others.”

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