Renate E. Spires (1925 - 2015)

  • "Renate was our across-the-street neighbor for 24 years. She..."
    - Denise Yancey
  • "We met Renate in the early 90's of course through our..."
    - Ron & Lynda Bowers
  • "Renate was one of my greatest inspirations. Intensely..."
    - Victoria Yancey
  • "She sounds like a great lady. May she Rest in Peace in the..."
    - Beth Kobe
  • "I knew Renate when I was a kid in the 70's and 80's when..."
    - Brian Shoemaker

Renate Erna (Laux) Spires peacefully passed away on Sept. 18, 2015, listening to Mozart, holding a friend's hand and looking out at the Chugach Mountains. She was 2 months shy of 90 years old. She was born Renate Laux in Weimar, Thuringia, Germany, to Kaufmann Wilhelm Fritz Laux and Erna Margarete (Rade) Laux on Dec. 10, 1925. She had an older brother, Frederick Laux, and an uncle, Paul Laux, with whom she was very fond. As a young girl, she played tennis, skied competitively and went to the opera to hear her mother sing. Her father ran a factory and her mother was an opera singer and painter. Her family suffered during World War II and under the Soviet occupation. Being fluent in four languages, Renate worked for NUKEM, Nuclear Chemistry and Metalurgy Ltd., and later as a tour guide at the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. This was the castle Walt Disney used as a model for the Cinderella castle at Walt Disney World. There she met and married a handsome American G.I., Raymond Spires, in 1959. After, they received orders to Anchorage, Alaska. Coming from the instability of war-torn Europe, she said she felt she like she had gone to heaven. In the 1960s, the Sand Lake area was on the far outskirts of Anchorage and flush with Alaskan wildlife. She adopted Alaskan huskies, trained her own team and maintained a musher's license. A great lover of animals, Renate worked and was on the Board of Directors at the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and later for First National Bank of Alaska. She took in dozens of animals from the animal shelter with special needs, including dogs, cats, rabbits and even owls. She continued to ski and fish. Later, Renate worked in the State of Alaska Commissioner's Office of the Alaska Public Utilities Commission office until her retirement. Renate was a force in the neighborhood. She always knew what was going on around her. Although they never had children of their own, kids in the neighborhood saw her as an adopted grandma and were happy to help her with chores. She lovingly shared herself with her community and donated to many animal welfare organizations in Alaska. She loved to spend time in the greenhouse that her neighbor, Jerry Swigart, built for her, listening to opera, drinking tea, painting and reading a good book. She enjoyed having friends over and teaching them about the opera she had listened to when she was young. She assured us those were the rock stars of their time. A voracious and eclectic reader, she had hundreds of books and had read almost every single one. She lived her life with autonomy and willful clarity, and left behind unique memories with each person who knew her. Renate was preceded in death by her husband; her parents; her uncle; and her brother. Her community - Alvie, Denise and Victoria Yancey; Jerry, Jamie and Joshua Swigart; Jason Jacoby; Dennis, Gail and Maggie Patella; Ryan, Julie and Hunter Gauthier; and Ron and Lynda Bowers - will miss her immensely. A memorial will be held at Witzelben Funeral Home, 1707 Bragaw Street, on Oct. 30, 2015, at 6 p.m. Immediately afterwards we will adjourn to spread her ashes. Feel free to bring your own dogs - she would have liked that. The memorial presentation will be available at In place of flowers, she would encourage you to donate to the SPCA, who generously agreed to help re-home her five cats upon her passing.
Published in Anchorage Daily News on Oct. 25, 2015