Transportation 22

Robert "Duke" Spelce

February 26, 1945 ~ June 21, 2023 (age 78) 78 Years Old


Robert W. (Duke) Spelce, a summer resident of Woodland Park, Colorado, passed away unexpectedly on June 21, 2023 at his residence at Diamond RV Park. He was 78 years old.

Duke was born on February 26, 1945 to Ray and Betty Spelce in Yuma, Arizona. He was a lifelong resident of Yuma, attending Crane Schools and Yuma High School where he played baseball, football, and was a champion wrestler. He was a member of the Yuma High School wrestling team that won the Arizona State Championship in 1963 and he was inducted into the Yuma High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

Duke was an avid sports fan all his life and enjoyed supporting local sports in Yuma. After moving to Tucson, Arizona in 2002, Duke attended University of Arizona football games as a member of the Wildcat Club. He could always be found cheering for the Wildcats during every sports season!

After graduating from high school, Duke attended Palmer Chiropractic College in Iowa. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and served in the dental corps at Fort Polk, Louisiana until his discharge in 1968. Years later, he proudly went back to school at Arizona Western College and graduated with his associate's degree in 2004. He always emphasized the value of education with his children.

Duke carried on a family tradition started by his father Ray by being hired at Southern Pacific Railroad in 1963. He worked as a brakeman and conductor for Southern Pacific and later Union Pacific Railroad for 43 years before retiring in 2005. During this time he also served as a United Transportation Union Association representative  for the local union in Yuma for many years.

Duke was a member of Impact Christian Church in Woodland Park, Colorado. He also served as a longtime deacon and elder for Central Church of Christ in Yuma, Arizona and an elder for the former Fellowship Church in Tucson, Arizona. Duke's faith and commitment to always helping others was a driving force throughout his entire life.

Family was the most important piece of Duke's life. He is survived by many family members including his wife, Darlene Spelce of Oro Valley, Arizona. They were married on May 26, 1967 and recently celebrated 56 years together. He is also survived by a daughter, Alisa Spelce DiPalma (husband Matthew) of Buda, Texas and daughter in law, Janessa Spelce Kuhl (husband Rusty) of Pinetop, Arizona.

Other surviving family members include his sister, Shirley Looney of Chandler, Texas and seven grandchildren: Cory Spelce, Jake Spelce, Garrett DiPalma, McKenna DiPalma, Nate DiPalma, Lucas Kuhl (wife Kourtney), Rachael Tisdell (husband Kaden) and one great-granddaughter, Drew Kuhl. 

Duke is also survived by niece Robin Spelce Fowler (great-niece Amanda and great-nephew Al) and Bobby Childs (great-niece, Casey). He was predeceased by his son, Curt Spelce, parents Ray and Betty Spelce and his older brother, Jack Spelce, all of Yuma, Arizona.

A celebration of Duke's life is planned for October in Yuma, Arizona. Internment will take place at Desert Lawn Memorial Park. Duke will be laid to rest next to his son, Curt who passed away in an automobile accident in 1994.

In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested for the following in memory of Duke Spelce.
Yuma High School Athletics Scholarship Programs-Yuma, Arizona
University of Arizona Athletics-Wildcat Club

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