John Charles Speck passed away on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. He had spent the previous day with his 3 children, Tony, Tammy and Julie, sharing stories of their youth and reading the New York Times. He is survived by his children, 4 grandchildren, their spouses and 5 great-grandchildren.
John was born June 24, 1942 in Los Angeles, CA to Reed Speck and Connie Browning. He had one sibling, his sister Barbara. His early life was filled with family in the Venice Beach area of Southern California and after his father died he, his sister and his mom moved to Napa when John was 11.
John graduated from Napa High School in 1960. He went to work at Mare Island Naval Shipyard straight out of high school, on the advice of his maternal Grandfather Browning.
John worked his entire professional career at Mare Island. Having started right out of high school, he was able to retire at 45 years old. His first job was as an Apprentice Electrician, making $2.24 an hour!
Over 29 years he held 17 different positions, including: Apprentice, Shipboard and Test Electrician, Apprentice Instructor, Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Electrical Systems Instructor, Test Specialist, Electrical Engineer Tech, Assistant Chief Test Engineer roles, Chief Test Engineer, Problem Coordinator, and Program Analyst.
John's stories of his days in the shipyard, the submarines he worked on and the interactions he had with co-workers and the Navy were a constant source of enjoyment to his family and friends!
He met and married Dianne Eastman (Dawson) on May 28th, 1965 on the same weekend of the Indianapolis 500. Dianne said he got a ticket on the way to the hotel.
He had a passion for racecars and enjoyed running races on road tracks, even at the original track at Sears Point Raceway. Working on cars and his career at Mare Island prepared John with the skills to imagine, design, build, and fix almost anything.
He was always working on his cars, a skill he passed on to his son Tony, and Tammy and Julie knew how to change the oil early on in life. He was an electrician and could fix just about anything. The deck he built at their house could have withstood the strongest CA earthquake.
Becoming a family man put a bit of a damper on his race career, but his kids recall many a winding road adventure on what seemed like 2 wheels.
John and Dianne had three children in 5 years, Charles Anthony (Tony), Tammy Louise, and Julie Crystal. When Julie was still in a playpen they bought a new house in the Napa Square neighborhood of American Canyon.
They chose the neighborhood purposefully for the diversity in the homeowners and the Napa schools.
John shared his love of the outdoors with his children early on. Some of their earliest memories are of camping, backpacking, fishing, road trips and John's stories about anything and everything
Whether it was leading the Napa Junction sixth grade camp out adventures, backpacking on the Eel River, camping at Richardson's Grove State Park, or exploring every Western State, John's adventures for the family left a legacy of exploration and environmentalism.
After retiring, John spent his time writing short stories, poetry and free-lance articles on a variety of subjects, but mostly focusing on environmental issues in the Napa Valley. He helped save the Eucalyptus trees along Hwy 12 and Stanley Lane (you' re welcome)!
He enjoyed leading hikes around the valley for the Napa County Land Trust and continuing to camp and hike throughout California and the Western United States.
John met his partner DeeDee at the young age of 66. Sadly she passed away in November, 2020 and John was devastated. They enjoyed their children and grandchildren, adventures with family and friends, reading the New York Times together, discussing current events, talking about and being active in politics, morning coffee or afternoon snacks on the back patio. DeeDee even got John to like dogs, that's love!!
DeeDee's sister Candace remembers, watching the playfulness between he and Dee Dee. They would just jump in the car and go fishing. Get bored and drive to the beach to barbecue hot dogs and watch the waves. Spend hours planning road trips and days executing them.
When his children had Grandkids, John enjoyed spending time with them and instilling the same love of nature he did with his children.
Later in life John was a constant source of peace, sound advice, a shoulder to cry on, but maybe most importantly encouragement and expressions of pride. He loved his kids, DeeDee, grandkids, other family and friends deeply and we will all miss him fiercely.