Volunteering Helped Freedom Woman Navigate her Life

Dee Spiegel used to be a shy person, but volunteering through the years changed that.

“Now I’m singing karaoke,” she said, smiling.

Retired & Senior Volunteer 55+ Program member Dee Spiegel volunteers at many local nonprofits.

She and her husband, Harlin, lived in Freedom for more than 59 years. After he had a stroke in 2003, she cared for him for 15 years. During that time she continued volunteering, especially at Freedom Elementary School, where she assisted teachers with a variety of projects. She described her many volunteering activities as a lifeline.

“By going out and volunteering and doing things, that kept me on an even keel,” she said. “I never considered myself a caregiver. It was a partnership with me and my husband.”

She enjoyed taking her husband with her to many of the places she volunteered, including the Thompson Center.

“He couldn’t speak and his right side was paralyzed,” she said. “But by the same token, every time we turned around there always was somebody who was in worse shape than he was – that is how we looked at it.”

Spiegel said his physical limitations did not stop them from having fun together. They laughed a lot, went to movies and enjoyed singing.

“I found, with his losing his speech, if I sang, the words would come to him. He could sing all the songs with me, so I did a lot of singing. Singing makes me happy.”

When Harlin passed away in May 2017, she moved to Appleton.

Last year, one of her friends remarked that she was such a good driver she should consider driving a school bus.

So at 83, Dee Spiegel got her CDL license. “It took me one try,” she said.

Today she drives a school bus in Freedom.

“When I drive in Freedom, I take my bus to the school and go in and help my teacher, then go back outside and drive my bus.

Spiegel also is a member of the Civic League and volunteers in the gift shop at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. She also volunteers in the office at Rebuilding Together, where she serves two to three hours on Monday mornings. She takes out paper clips and staples from documents and scans them into the computer, creating digital copies of documents. Then she places the digital files in the computer.

Her summer plans include volunteering and riding her new, 21-speed road bike.

“When you don’t worry about yourself and think about other people, everything else falls into place,” she said. “Life is so much more enjoyable.”