OBITUARY: Gary A. Spiess, 82

Gary A. Spiess, a longtime resident of Marblehead, died peacefully November 25 with his family. He was 82 years old.

Known for his humor, quick-wit, and wise spirit, Spiess was the Marblehead Town Moderator for 16 years and assistant Town Moderator for more than 30 years.

Gary A. Spiess

In an interview with the Marblehead Current in June 2022, he called the Town Meeting form of government “the purest form of democracy.” He was known for citizen advocacy in the town meeting process, ensuring proposals passed legal muster and all residents had the right to be heard.

“He kind of was that classic Marbleheader in the sense that he didn’t beat around the bush. He told you what he thought, but he was also very generous and caring,” Marblehead Select Board Chair Moses Grader said to the Marblehead Current. He understood the “courage that it takes for people to stand up and speak”.

The key ingredients to a successful Town Meeting, he told the Marblehead Current, were “respect for our fellow citizens, sticking to the topic under discussion, no personal attacks, and knowing when you’ve said enough.”

Spiess was married to Elizabeth (“Betsy”) for 58 years. He is survived by four sons Howard Willis (Allie), James P.F. (Rebecca), Benjamin W., and John C.J. (Erin); and seven grandchildren Miles, Lucy, Orrin, Keira, Henry, and Alexander and Robert, sons of Joni M. Earp. He is also survived by his brother Paul Spiess, sister Mary Benda, and sister Barbara Miller as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Gary Spiess was born in Wauseon, Ohio, the son of Howard Spiess and Louise Spiess. He graduated from Ladue High School in St. Louis in 1958. He was the first member of the Spiess family to pursue higher education, attending Dartmouth College on a football scholarship.

Spiess played cornerback and halfback on the Dartmouth varsity football team for three years from 1959 – 1961.  In 1961, he won the Blackman Trophy as the player who contributed most to the Dartmouth team.   A star high school half-miler in Missouri, he dropped track in college to play rugby.  Known on the rugby field for quickness and stinging hits, his teammates nicknamed him “Spider”.


Spiess went to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1966. He began his long legal career in downtown Boston at Bingham, Dana & Gould law firm. He left the firm in 1976 to join First National Bank of Boston (later BankBoston and FleetBoston) where he served for almost 15 years as general counsel. Spiess was a leader in diversity, requiring all outside counsel to have a diversity plan,


Spiess retired from Fleet Financial Group in 2004 after the bank was acquired by Bank of America.

Spiess was immersed in the New England legal and non-profit communities. Among other positions, he served on the boards of Partners HealthCare, the North Shore Medical Center in Salem, Holderness School in Plymouth, New Hampshire, and the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, Maine. He served as president the Boston chapter of the Council on Foreign Relations, board chair of the Boston Bar Foundation and New England Law Foundation, and chair of the board of Discovering Justice, a non-profit dedicated to legal education in the Boston Public School.

He remained active in numerous Dartmouth College committees and alumni efforts.

Spiess, along with his sons and spouse, was a skier, hiker and tenacious pond hockey player. He and Betsy owned a small farmhouse in Piermont, New Hampshire. Over the past 49 years, they improved the house and surrounding farmland. He developed an interest in conservation and protection of rural New England. Gary was continuously curious and engaged in the world around him from topics ranging from history to astronomy to music.

Above all, his passion was people.

He was a gifted bridge-builder and peacemaker in his home, in law, and in Marblehead politics. He was quick to remind that every person’s opinion mattered. Asked one time how to manage the Town of Marblehead as Moderator, he responded: “Listen more than you speak.”

Please visit eustisandcornellfuneralhome.comfor information about Gary’s Memorial Service, to be held, Friday, December 9 at 11:00 a.m., at St. Michael’s Church in Marblehead followed by a reception at the Eastern Yacht Club. Donations are welcome at the organizations to which Gary gave so much time, including the Chewonki Foundation and Discovering Justice.

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