Many people notice the plethora of sports memorabilia on display at Hansen-Spear. There are autographed jerseys (Cubs/Cardinals/Bears), autographed pictures (Mays/Mantle/DiMaggio/Butkus) and other keepsake items and pictures. But the first sports item one sees walking up the front walk is a concrete bear, usually wearing some uniform. This was George Spear’s concrete bear.
George was at the funeral home the day he had his heart attack in early summer, 2013. Following a brief hospital stay he died on June 19, 2013. One of the first things we did the next day (thank you Jerry and Jared Lunt for reaching out with a “what can we do to help you” offer) was go to his house and bring his bear to the funeral home to display for his funeral, wearing its signature Cub outfit. Following the funeral, we decided to keep the bear and continue dressing it as George would have. We even got a Santa outfit for Christmas time.
A common request around here is to replace the Cub hat with a Cardinal hat to honor the life of a longtime Cardinal fan whose service is being held. This has been done on numerous occasions. It’s a fitting tribute to that sport’s fan, and gives people something to visit about while at the visitation.
That is one of the important things about the ‘props’ one sees on display at a funeral, whether it’s pictures, albums, plaques, needlework, quilts, or other paraphernalia. It gives those of us visiting a grieving family a place to begin our visit. Let’s face it, no one really knows what to say to a family member when someone has died. You don’t really know how they feel, they don’t realize that things will ever get better, and they are in an emotional fog. But what they do know is that you took the time and effort to show up, to acknowledge that the life of that person who died was important, and that you really do care about the family left behind. Don’t worry about what you say. Just go!
So George’s bear is a constant reminder to our staff of the great leader he was in our industry, our community, and in our business. In addition to being a great man and funeral director, he was quite a fun guy who loved his Cubs.
Whenever I see his bear I think of his youthful joy in following sports. I hope you do, too.