ELDORADO -- Michael David Spanel, 71, peacefully passed away Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at home with his wife, Rose, by his side.
Michael was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Romaine C. and Alice (Russell) Spanel. He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where he earned a degree in biology.
He was united in marriage to Rose M. (Strobl) Spanel on Oct. 6, 1971. As Michael began his 35-year career, it was evident of his love for the outdoors and wildlife.
Michael had three children with Rose, and they include Christopher (Laura) M. Spanel, who have two children, Jordan and Auggie; Jason (Kivilcim) N. Spanel, who have two children, Maia and Kiley; and Laura (Drew) VanZandt, who have one child, John.
He was very proud of his children, as both boys went on to become Eagle Scouts, and his daughter, Laura, earned a master's degree in pediatric occupational therapy.
One of Michael's first jobs was as a refuge manager on Blackbeards Island in Georgia. There he released 2,000 loggerhead sea turtles to the ocean, helping them from becoming extinct. He proceeded from there to work at the Department of Defense at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, where his conservation program led to improving the wild turkey population. He helped re-establish turkey populations in Ohio and Illinois by capturing and releasing turkeys from A.P. Hill.
From there, he went to Ohio and worked in ecological services, where his work helped protect sensitive mussel beds in the Ohio River. Next, onward to Ruby Valley, Nevada, as assistant refuge manager, where he was able to restore and protect the sensitive nesting grounds for canvasback ducks.
His final position was at Shawnee National Forest in Illinois as a forest wildlife biologist. Through Mike's leadership, he developed partnerships (cost-share programs) with The National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, Taking Wings, Whitetails-Unlimited and Boy Scouts of America.
In 1991, he received the Regional Forester's Honor Award for his outstanding achievement in the challenge cost-share program. Throughout Mike's 35-year career, he displayed a strong stewardship for conservation of national forests.
One of Mike's greatest joys was to organize the Glen O. Jones Fishing Derby in Equality for over 20 years. To see so many children fishing with their parents brought him great joy. He diligently worked on the derby until his health started to fail him.
Time quickly passed and Michael's battle with Parkinson's was taking a toll on such an active man. But he still persisted in "chain sawing" on his piece of heaven on Wildcat Hills.
In the words of his family, "May he now fly with the eagles and run with the wolves."
Memorials to honor Mike's legacy may be made to Boy Scouts of America, Troop 23, Cub Scouts, First Presbyterian Church, 34 W. Poplar St., Harrisburg, IL 62946; Southeastern Burn Association, 945 Illinois 146, Golconda, IL 62938; Hospice of Southern Illinois; or Michael J. Fox Parkinson's Association.
A celebration of Mike's life will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 21, 2018 at The Cabin in the Woods. All family and friends are welcome to attend. Please call for directions if needed.
Colonial Terrace Funeral Home in Eldorado is in charge of arrangements.