Carbondale - Charley Speck, 86, died at 1:20am Sunday, February 12, at Carbondale Rehab and Nursing Center.
Charles Walter Speck was born in Peoria, IL, on Feb. 20, 1931. He attended Sacred Heart Grade School and Spalding Institute. In 1948 he entered St. Bede (Benedictine) Junior College Seminary in Peru, IL. From 1950 to 1951 he was a novice at St. Bede Abbey. From 1951 to 1953 he attended St. John’s College in Collegeville, MN, graduating with a BA in Philosophy. From 1953 to 1956 he completed in three years the normal four year theological studies at St. Bede Theologate.
In the fall of 1956 he was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood. Thereupon he was sent to study theology, for an advanced degree, at the international college of Sant’Ansellmo in Rome, Italy. In 1958 he graduated with a Licentiate (or Master’s) in Theology. Thereafter he studied Canon Law at the Pontificia Universitas Lateranensis. He served for several years as “Vice-Economo” or vice Bursar for the College Sant’Ansellmo. He obtained a Licentiate (or Master’s) in Canon Law from the Lateran. He was somewhat involved with the abbots and bishops attending the Second Vatican Council. He then accepted invitations to go to remote German monastic libraries such as Gerleve and Neresheim to complete his dissertation, which he defended in Rome in June of 1963, being awarded a Doctorate in Canon Law.
Charles returned to the USA to St. Bede Abbey in the summer of 1963. There he taught canon law, mathematics, german, and religion in the Theologate and the High School. He was also “Charley Chaplain” for the High School and Junior College. At the request of the Abbot Primate, Rembert Weakland, he returned to Rome and Sant’Ansellmo to become the Secretary of the Abbot Primate. After living in Rome some ten years, he became proficient in Italian – later teaching the same.
On Friday, February 13, 1970, he left Rome, the Benedictine Order and 14 years of ordained priesthood behind, to pursue a different way of life. After the additional turbulence of the ocean voyage to New York City, he was welcomed by the Statue of Liberty. He was now at liberty to fulfill his new dream of finding a wife. After 20 years as a Benedictine Monk and 14 years as an ordained priest, he hopped in a cab – trunk in hand – to travel 100 miles to Philadelphia. He met and later married Elsie Myers in Philadelphia. There he taught Latin to inner-city youth through the Philadelphia School District. He was later hired by Southern Illinois University Carbondale whose Foreign Language Department charged him with the task of teaching Latin and Roman Civilization. He taught at SIU for 26 years, loving every minute of it, biking daily to campus, and not missing one day of work. He was voted among the top 20 teachers at SIU in 1974; the same year he also received the “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” award in the College of Liberal Arts. In 1990 he received the Illinois Lieutenant Governor Award for “outstanding contribution to foreign language learning.” Although retired in 1996, he was awarded the Illinois Classical Conference Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, for his promotion of Classics in the State of Illinois over at least a ten year period.
He was also devoted to his church, serving the Knights of Columbus for 25 years, as well as serving as a Minister of Hospitality.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Elsie, children David and May, May’s husband Mike O’Neal, several sisters and brothers-in-law, and numerous nephews and nieces.
He was preceded in death by his parents, and only sister, Dorothy.
A thirty minute concert will be held at 9:30 a.m. prior to the Memorial Mass at 10 a.m., at St. Francis Xavier Church in Carbondale on Saturday, February 25, with Reverend Robert Flannery officiating.
Memorials may be made to St. Bede Abbey: 24 W. Highway 6; Peru, IL 61354-2093 – or to Doctors Without Borders: 333 7th Avenue; New York, NY 10001-5004.
To share a story or memory of Charley, visit www.meredithfh.com.