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Islanders grieve over loss of beloved Judge Spearman

Superior Court Judge Ted Spearman (left), the late Superior Court Judge Len Kruse and Appellate Court Judge J. Robin Hunt following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in 2009. - Photo Courtesy of Judge J. Robin Hunt
Superior Court Judge Ted Spearman (left), the late Superior Court Judge Len Kruse and Appellate Court Judge J. Robin Hunt following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in 2009.
— image credit: Photo Courtesy of Judge J. Robin Hunt

The death of Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Ted Spearman on Tuesday reverberated around the county and Bainbridge Island as his peers, friends and neighbors expressed their respect and love for the man.

Theodore “Ted” Spearman, 64, a county judge for seven years and a resident of Bainbridge since 1983, died Tuesday night due to complications of a brain aneurysm.

Plans for a memorial service are pending, according to son-in-law Jason Weaver of Sonoma County, Calif.

Spearman, perhaps one of the most well-respected judges in the state according to many of his judicial peers, had a long history as a civil rights attorney and champion.

He was appointed as the first black man on the Kitsap County bench in 2004 by then-Gov. Gary Locke and was re-elected twice. He was up for election this year, but resigned his post on Dec. 23 while hospitalized.

Respect and warmth were the words most used by those describing the man after his death was announced.

“It’s just a great loss for all of us who knew him,” said Andrew Becker, a Port Orchard attorney who had become a close friend over the last 20 years. “He was a total people person with a tremendous capacity to appreciate and understand his fellow human beings. And he had this tremendous intellect. But what really set him apart was the devotion and love to his family and the bench.”

Becker remembers speaking at Spearman’s “coronation,”  when he was sworn-in as a judge in 2004.

“As my speech was winding down about all of his qualities, I said, ‘And now at long last we have a vegetarian from Bainbridge Island on the Superior Court.’ He got a big kick out of that. Actually, he was a vegan.”

One of Spearman’s highest points came in 2009 when he was chosen to give the keynote address at the 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

To add to the drama, it was on the eve of the inauguration of President Barack Obama. As he often did, Judge Spearman spoke of the need to nurture our children with love and dedication.

“Parents should encourage and empower their children to live their dreams,” he said. “Put children first because they are our pieces of art and they can be masterpieces.”

Spearman also stood up for diversity at home, including during 1998 when the Bainbridge City Council was considering an ordinance that could have led to the end of liveaboard residents in Eagle Harbor. His emphasis was on the need for diversity on Bainbridge and elsewhere.

Repeatedly, he urged the council to honor the need to preserve and honor diversity through the liveaboard community. He urged the council to treasure diversity and care for different ways of life. Eventually, the ordinance was shelved and Eagle Harbor’s liveaboard community still exists.

Court of Appeals Judge J. Robin Hunt had become a close friend with the Spearman family over the last 10 years.

“I had trouble this morning,” she said on Wednesday. “We’ll all miss him. He had this real passion for the law and his life. He was so dedicated to everything he did. And he was such a wonder friend.

Spearman grew up Yakima in an adoptive family, graduated from Stanford and earned his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1971.

He is survived by his wife, Marie, daughter Simone Spearman, son-in-law Jason Weaver and granddaughter Saja Spearman-Weaver.

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Praise for Judge Ted Spearman

Appeals Court Judge J. Robin Hunt: “I think of him as just this big, warm, steady bear of a man with big smile on his face and real zest for life with whatever he was involved in.”

Port Orchard Attorney Andrew Becker: “He was just a wonderful, wonderful person. And the warm-hearted part of him was always there, whether he was on the bench or with his family or friends.

State Supreme Court Justice Charlie Wiggins: “I didn’t know him very well, but his reputation was of the highest degree and he was well-respect in all areas of law, whatever he did.”

Bainbridge Attorney Bill McGonagle: “As a judge, he went of his way to be very gracious and always gave e people the opportunity to say their peace. He never blew people off or failed to listen to what they had to say. An excellent judge and even greater person.”

Kitsap Superior Court Judge Anna M. Laurie: “Ted approached each day with an admirable blend of integrity, fairness, patience and public service. He will truly be missed.”

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