Ernest F. “Ernie” Sprugel, 89, passed away Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in the Veteran’s Administration Hospital hospice care facility in Spokane. His love for his family, his passions, and his stubbornness shone through until the end, and finally traded cancer for eternal peace.
Ernie was born on July 17, 1922, in Lawrence County, Spice Valley Township, Indiana to Ernest P. and Elizabeth C. (Sheetz) Sprugel. As a young boy, he moved to the city of his father’s birth, Chicago, Illinois. Always active in sports, he graduated from Steinmetz High School in June 1940 with letters in baseball, bowling, swimming, and band. As an accomplished musician, he played the trumpet in bands in and out of school. He turned down a scholarship to the University of Illinois to play trumpet in their band, and started his life’s adventure. While working in a factory, he lost his right index finger up to the first joint.
Despite this handicap, the United States Coast Guard accepted his enlistment in January, 1942. While in the service, he rose to the rank of Electrician’s Mate 1st Class. During WWII, he participated and earned medals in the American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, European-American-Middle Eastern Campaign, WWII Victory medal, Navy Occupation-Asia, China Service, Philippine Liberation, and Honorable Discharge medal in February, 1947. He became a pilot and enjoyed the open spaces flying brought him. The training in the service carved his career path as an electrician in all corners the United States.
Niagra Falls, Florida, Chicago, Detroit, and Scottsdale are a few of the places he worked. He began working on dams in 1963 at Page, Ariz., then Sweet Home, Ore., and then brought his family to Grand Coulee Dam in 1967 to work on the switchyard and third powerhouse. He worked for Jelco Incorporated and Grant County P.U.D. before retiring. He was a member of the I.B.E.W. for 65 years.
In 1949 he married Lorraine Swanson. Ernie and Lori had three children: Glenna (Whitelaw), Bob, and Jim Sprugel. In 1969
he married Francis Pendell Dunning. They resided in the area and raised rabbits, sheep, and horses before RVing in the winter in Arizona. Ernie was liked wherever he went and shared his stories and humor with all. He loved this area and enjoyed fishing, hunting, camping, ranching, horseback riding, nature drives, and golfing, He had a pioneer spirit and always said he was born “a hundred years too late,” so exploring the area came natural to him. He would go for long drives and seek out the solitude and beauty of his surroundings. He ultimately took the bachelor path and would winter in warmer places until he could no longer travel due to the cancer. Most recently, he resided in his motor home hoping that each treatment would bring him closer to taking his “wheels for a ride.”
Ernie was creative and talented in so many ways. His hobbies and passions included jewelry-making, oil painting, sketching, building (welding) wood stoves, leather crafts, glass etching, sculpting, and especially woodworking. He was a perfectionist and a man of detail. His woodworking became a retirement profession. His musical talents included teaching himself to play the mandolin, and at 80, taught himself to play the guitar and would jam with his local buddies.
He leaves many friends and had a special place in his heart (and belly) for “Table 3” at the Senior Center and his “Taco Tuesday” group. He knows how blessed he was by the kindnesses and friendships of so many.
Ernie is survived by his daughter Glenna, grandchildren Eric, Jonah, and Daisy; son Jim, grandchildren Ashlee and Skyler, and eight great-grandchildren; Gunnar, Bjorn, Bergen, Hunter, Tanner, Lilyana, Scarlett Rose, and Matti; each holding a very special place in his heart.
Ernie was preceded in death by his son, Bob.
A celebration of Ernie’s life will be held at the Eagles Lodge in Grand Coulee at 11 a.m., on Saturday, March 17. A luncheon will follow. The family requests your presence to celebrate a full life lived.