After valiantly battling a rare and aggressive type of uterine cancer for over a year Carolyn Kommel Spiegel died peacefully at home in Menlo Park on August 5, 2011.
Born on September 22, 1942 at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland where her father, Sanford Kommel, was stationed as an officer in the Chemical Warfare Service of the 3rd Army, Carolyn and her brother, Bob grew up in New York City with their mother, Charlotte Daniels Kommel. She graduated from Flushing High School and received a B.A. in French from the University of Wisconsin. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and attended the Sorbonne – University of Paris. Her next accomplishment was a four year National Defense Education Act Doctoral Fellowship at Stanford University.
Carolyn had a highly successful forty year career teaching French at various levels to thousands of students, many of whom called her “the best teacher I’ve ever had.” She began by teaching at the City University of New York, but returned to California and taught at several schools before settling in at Foothill College. One of her greatest achievements was the creation of a live and interactive French Conversation class which she led over television for Stanford University.
Active in the local Jewish community, Carolyn served as president of the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School PTA and on the Boards of Directors of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews and the Sequoia Chapter of Hadassah. She was a frequent volunteer in various capacities at Congregations Beth Jacob and Kol Emeth. As an activist in the struggle for freedom for Soviet Jews she and husband Phil traveled to the former Soviet Union in 1985 and 1987 to meet with refuseniks and bring them material and spiritual support in their struggles to emigrate.
Carolyn’s first bout with cancer occurred in 1990 when she developed throat cancer and required daily radiation therapy for two years. She inspired the medical staff and other patients by riding her bicycle from her home in Los Altos to El Camino Hospital. She became an active participant in rides with the Western Wheelers Bicycle Club and completed many 100 kilometer rides as well as bicycle tours through France and around Hawaii. Combining her loves of French and bicycling she gave classes in French conversation especially “geared” for cyclists who were going to ride in France.
Madamevelo (Mrs. Bicycle) became her nickname and email address and also the name of her Care Page for blogging about her cancer treatment and condition when she began chemotherapy for uterine cancer last year. Over 120 friends and family members have been reading her updates and in their nearly 2000 messages of support they frequently admired her joie de vivre and remarked how courageous and inspiring Carolyn has been. While in chemotherapy last July Carolyn served as a cycling course marshal for the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s Livestrong Challenge in San Jose. She rode 30 miles that day!
Carolyn has loved being a grandmother to Sylvia (3 years old) and Ari (17 months), the children of her daughter, Deborah, and son-in-law Matthew Glenn who live in Portland, Oregon. She is also survived by her loving and devoted husband of 31 years, Philip Spiegel and his sons, Ralph Spiegel and wife, Laura Marsh, of Philadelphia, and Michael Spiegel and wife, Amity Spiegel and grandson Cole Spiegel of Brooklyn. Other survivors are her brother, Robert Kommel of New York, and her sisters Jane Stoval of Sacramento, Laura Farmer of Crystal Lake, Illinois, and Helene Kommel of Kingston, Ontario, as well as many beloved nieces, nephews and cousins in North America and Israel.
A service at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto held Sunday, August 7, preceded burial at the Eternal home Cemetery in Colma.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that any donations be made to Congregation Kol Emeth, www.kolemeth.org or the Sequoia Chapter of Hadassah, http://sequoia-hadassah.org. SINAI MEMORIAL CHAPEL, 650-369-3636