William "Bill" Speth
1930 - 2020
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William "Bill" Speth
William W. Speth, 90, of Bend, Oregon died Friday afternoon, August 7, 2020 at his home during his afternoon nap. Born in Davenport, Iowa on May 17, 1930 he was the only child of Benjamin Speth and Jeannette (Krenek) Speth.
His early life was spent on farms near DeWitt and Comanche, Iowa and in Davenport where he received most of his public schooling. Following high school graduation, he served in the U.S. Navy for one year and trained as an aerographer. He earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1954 and a doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Oregon in 1972. While teaching at Central Washington State College, he met his future wife and loyal friend, Constance H. Weber. They were married in Ellensburg in 1970.
He was an academic, interested in knowledge and learning and made the history of American geography and anthropology his major interest. He valued Buddhist doctrine and experience of Nature. Both were sources of spiritual sustenance for him.
After nearly 50 years of marriage, Constance passed away on September 14, 2019. January 2020, Bill moved to Bend, Oregon where he had previously taught at Central Oregon Community College, and to be close to his daughter and son-in-law, Rachel Speth and Jeffrey Delkin of Bend, Oregon. Additional survivors are his son Benjamin Speth, and his partner, Becky Hilton of Stockholm, Sweden.


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Published in Daily Record on Aug. 19, 2020.
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November 19, 2020
I met Bill in the late 1950's where we worked as student gardeners in the UCB Botanical Gardens. We struck up a friendship lasting 60+ years. He was a brilliant scholar, supporting the deeper understandings of Franz Boas and Carl O. Sauer against the then more superficial treatments by American anthropologists. We had many summer adventures hiking, canoeing, camping, and exploring wilderness areas of the PNW. I consider him a treasured mentor, leading me to become a lifelong advocate for conservation of natural ecosystems, in my own long (50+) teaching career. He will be sorely missed, but fondly remembered for his wit, creativity, and ability to 'read' geological stories in landscapes (volcanism, avalanches, the great Missoula Flood, etc). Bill was prescient in realizing the impact of modern civilization on the ecological crisis; his
academic works should be more widely known. Read 'How it Came to be' (1999) by Bill.
Thor Henrich
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