Obituary of Paul Spiekermann, MD
Paul Spiekermann of Westport, a doctor who specialized in tropical medicine and later worked with the Rotary International Foundation on various projects, died March 8. He was 92.
During his long career, he worked in in Malaya, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as well as in the Americas.
In “retirement,” as a Rotarian for over 20 years, he had a long list of Rotary-sponsored international projects to his credit.
They included bringing well water to a village in Benin, furnishing and equipping a school in Tanzania, helping provide schooling for AIDS, cancer and accident orphans in Thailand, and providing artificial limbs for land mine amputees and braces for polio victims in Cambodia.
In 2008, he received Rotary International’s highest honor, the Service Above Self Award, which “exemplifies humanitarian service with personal volunteer efforts and active involvement in helping others, through Rotary, on a continuing basis.”
He was born in 1925 into a comfortable life in pre-World War II Germany, to a father who was already the second in line of physicians.
He eventually was able to enroll in medical studies at the University of Bonn where he completed his studies with high honors and later specialized in tropical medicine at the prestigious Institute for Tropical Diseases in Hamburg.
A year of study in the United States followed, ending up in Baltimore where he worked at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, and the Lutheran Hospital of Maryland. In the process, he met his future wife, Gloria.
Next stop was the newly established country of Indonesia, which had a shortage of doctors following the departure of the Dutch colonial personnel. He became a staff physician at a government hospital in Malang in the central island of Java.
While living with his family there, he practiced in his field of tropical dermatology and leprosy in service to the Indonesian government from 1956 to 1960.
In 1960, he was back in Germany in Cologne when he was offered a position with the well-known Bayer Pharmaceutical Corporation.
The company was interested in expanding its reach into Southeast Asia. He agreed to become its first medical director in the region, with his headquarters located in Bangkok, Thailand.
He traveled periodically to India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Malaysia, Laos, and Vietnam in order to carry out his responsibilities.
He and his wife also took lessons together in Thai, as well as in golf. The family remained in Bangkok for six years that were combined with passenger ship journeys back and forth to Europe several times.
In 1968, Bayer decided to next embark on a joint venture in the USA with an in-country pharmaceutical company. Spikekermann was offered the position as medical director for the project and accepted it.
The family moved to South Orange, New Jersey. He also conducted research in North, Central, and South America in the 1970s.
In 1978, when Bayer decided to make some acquisitions of several U.S. pharmaceutical companies in the Connecticut area, the family moved to Westport where he served as director of medical affairs and research.
Just before the move, Gloria completed her law degree at Rutgers University School of Law. She established a law office here and at one point even represented Westport against overly aggressive developers.
Gloria was an early member of the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club in 1988 and served on the Westport Conservation Commission.
Paul joined the Westport Rotary Club in 1989 and from 2000 to 2015 lead its International Service Committee, which initiated a series of 19 humanitarian grants mainly in South Asia, Africa, and Haiti and partnered with other Connecticut Rotary Clubs on their grants.
In 1997, Gloria Spiekermann was found to have an incurable cancer of the pancreas and later died.
From that time on, Paul’s only real satisfaction was to work with the Rotary Foundation. As time went on, however, his health deteriorated.
Survivors include two daughters, Shelley Dally of Loerrach, Germany, and Christa French of Vero Beach, Florida; one son Dr. Luke Spiekermann and his wife Tracy of Chattanooga, Tennessee, two granddaughters, Elaina Spiekermann, Juliet Spiekermann, and her husband Will Jones, and one great-granddaughter Eleanor of Dayton, Tennessee; and in Germany two sisters-in- law as well as nieces and nephews who loved to spend time in Westport. He was predeceased by his daughter Susan Schofield of Honolulu, Hawaii in 2016.
A service of remembrance will take place on Saturday, March 17 at 10 a.m. at Saint Luke Catholic Church, 49 Turkey Hill Road North, Westport, followed by interment at Willowbrook Cemetery, which is private, the family said.
Contributions in his honor can be made to the Westport Rotary Club Foundation, PO Box 743, Westport, CT 06880.