Helen Spyker: Late entrepreneur, historian was ‘keeper of the story’

SHAWNEE CITY — For decades, Helen Jean Spiker shared Allen County history with anyone who would listen.

The late businessman, best known for his work at the Elmoyo Store and his successful opposition to the annexation of Shawnee City by Lima, devoted his free time to preserving Native American culture and local history, and the stories few knew or wanted. Say.

Spiker, 98, died on Monday, December 13.

“He was the keeper of the story,” his nephew, Jonathon Spiker, recalled. “This community has lost its voice, and now it’s up to us to pick up that voice and continue the story.”

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Spiker defied expectations in an era when they were male.

Born in 1924, Spiker never married and had no children.

Instead, he immersed himself in Elmview Housewares, the family-owned grocery, hardware and appliance store he founded with his brothers after World War II.

When his brothers sold their share of the family business in the 1950s, Spiker continued to sell home furnishings at the Elmview store, brought in Hallmark greeting cards and eventually opened his own Hallmark store.

“She was a young lady in a man’s world,” Jonathon Spiker said. He had to run this business alone and on his own terms. “The world was not very friendly to that and he had to fight tooth and nail.”

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Spiker became a central figure in the establishment of the former Village of Fort Shawnee, which was established in 1960 to prevent the annexation of the industrial areas of Shawnee by the city of Lima.

His brother, Joel, was the “lightning rod” of the movement, Spiker’s nephew recalled, while Helen Spiker was the “evangelist.”

Spiker knocked on his neighbors’ doors and started The Shawnee Bulletin, an anti-annexation newsletter.

“It was a good time to be alive, I tell you,” Helen Spiker told the Lima News in 2010, when the village celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was like someone going to a state basketball game and winning. It was a community spirit like a great football game. “It was a really good time to be living in Shawnee.”

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Spiker, whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, became an amateur historian himself, retelling forgotten stories about the region’s past and, at times, correcting false accounts.

His nephew recalled that he had a strong interest in Native American culture and organized powwows and elaborate reenactments so that the cultures would not be lost to history.

“It was important for people to know Native American culture,” said Jonathon Spiker. “That they knew the story — the right story, not the stories that were painted because we wanted to take their land and use them, but the stories that these were the people who were here.

“… He just felt they had a right to tell their story.”

He said the rest of the Spiker family must now carry on Helen Spiker’s work.

“There are so many stories that need to be told,” he said. He was one of those people who believed in putting this story out there and making it real.


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