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Published: Saturday, 6/30/2001

Teacher was among Fulton County's 1st special ed instructors

ARCHBOLD - Alta C. Speiss, one of Fulton County's first special education instructors and a dedicated member of St. John's United Church of Christ, died of natural causes Thursday in the Fairlawn Haven Nursing Home here. She was 96.

Ms. Speiss graduated from Archbold High School and attended Defiance College, Ohio University, and Bowling Green State University, eventually earning an undergraduate and a master's degree in education.

She taught elementary school for over 50 years in and around Pettisville, spending most of her first 40 years at the helm of a fifth-grade classroom before becoming the school's special education teacher. She retired in 1974.

Ms. Speiss had six sisters, every one of whom also was a teacher.

Her students were always close to her heart. “She loved them all,” said Jane Short, Ms. Speiss' sister. “We still hear from her former students, though now they have gray hair, too. Just last week, a man came to see her, and told her that she was the best teacher he'd ever had. Every child was important to her.”

Ms. Speiss' dedication to children extended to her involvement with St. John's United Church of Christ, where she taught Sunday school for over 50 years, and also served as the advisor to the church's youth fellowship group.

“She was a grand woman, very wise and very well-spoken. At the heart of her was a sincere and humble Christian faith,” said David Voll, the church's pastor for the last 61/2 years.

Each year, Ms. Speiss oversaw a taffy pull with the youth group. She would cook a huge batch of taffy, and then members of the young group pulled it to give it its consistency; most of the congregation took part in eating it.

“It was a favorite activity year after year after year,” Mr. Voll said.

Ms. Speiss was also involved with Delta Kappa Gamma, a fellowship of teachers; the Fulton County Teachers Association, and the Ohio Teachers Association.

She enjoyed painting throughout her life, loved to travel the U.S., and was an avid reader.

Surviving are her sisters, Violet Schlatter and Jane Short.

The body will be in the Short Funeral Home, after 10 a.m. tomorrow. Memorial services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. John's United Church of Christ, Archbold.

The family requests tributes to St. John's United Church of Christ.

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