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Wilbert "Poppie" Spier

Poppie

If ever there was a man who knew how to live, it was Wilbert Spier. In many ways he exemplified the best values of the "greatest generation." More than any other person I have ever known, he had a gift for making people want to meet his high expectations. That gift, and a deep resonating voice, good looks, a love of people, and hard work propelled him from modest beginnings to be at the top, or near the top of every organization he participated in, be that the Shriners, Kiwanis, Coca-Cola, or his family.

Born into a family of eight children, he worked as a bakery deliveryman before taking a job with Coca-Cola as a salesman. For his children and grandchildren, Coca-Cola wasn't just where "Poppie" (as he was known to his grandchildren) worked, it was intrinsic to who he was. Coke paraphernalia was distributed throughout his home, and we received yearly gifts of Coke Santas, Coke trucks - Coke "you name it." For many years I would have drunk swamp water before Pepsi.

By all accounts, Poppie was respected and well liked by those who worked for him. It was clear to everyone that he had achieved his executive position through hard work and superb performance, not through office politics. He was no snob! He wouldn't hesitate to drive the Coke trucks long after his status in the company made that unnecessary - even unusual. He treated people fairly - he gave loyalty and total dedication to his company, and expected loyalty from his employees in return. So when the unions moved in and divided the loyalty of his staff - it was time for Poppie to retire. He was fortunate to be able to spend over a third of his life retired!

My Grandfather was known for his passion for perfection. Everything he did had to be flawless. No picture in his home could be tilted, no shirt he wore could show a wrinkle, no tool in his shed could be out of place. Each word he spoke, he enunciated with clarity and projection. He carpeted his garage so no grease spots would ever mar its surface. He would polish his lawnmower after each use. His home was, and is, a model of rich and refined taste, with all in it kept in showcase condition. He was intensely loyal - loyal to his wife, his family, and his company.

Aside from watching the occasional football game, or chatting with friends and family, his waking hours were spent building, cleaning, and perfecting all around him. He enjoyed riding his horse, working on his tractor, and toured in his motor homes well into his 80s - he loved moving and hated standing still.

I feel that I owe a great deal to Poppie. I visited him and my Grandmother for two weeks in 1974 with my cousin, Craig. At the time, I was something of a "nair do well" - lazy, sloppy, just getting by with the minimum in school. A typical teenager perhaps. Two weeks with my Grandparents at that particularly impressionable point in my life made a huge difference, as I learned that "doing it right" paid off in terms of pride in one's work - that work itself was nothing to be afraid of. He taught me by sheer example that it was possible, even desirable to live by the virtues that most only spoke of.

I have never been able to achieve in anything the level of perfection that Poppie did in all things. Nonetheless, as I went through my high school, army, college and work careers, not a day would go by that I didn't ask if I was working as quickly and well as Poppie would, and if Poppie would be satisfied with the level of quality that I was putting into what I was doing. And though I never could meet those standards, the values he was able to instill in me made a real difference. My work - and my life - has rarely been perfect, but it has certainly been better than it would have been if I had never spent time with him.

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Video

Would you like to visit with the Spiers? Click on the picture for an interview, and rare film from the 1940s - 1960s!

Spier Family Reunion Webpage

Syracuse Newspaper Obituary

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Coke Manager

Poppie and Baby Dave

Portrait