Rusty Spieler

{span}Rusty Spieler{/span}

James Russell “Rusty” Spieler, Jr., 52, of Columbia died July 8, 2020, at Lake Regional Hospital.

He was born in St. Louis on April 16, 1968, and was loved and adopted as an infant by Jim and Audrey Spieler. Throughout his youth, from 8 to 18, he was a competitive swimmer and traveled to swim meets throughout Missouri and Kansas, swam on the Hickman High School team and made a friendship exchange to Leicester, England, with the Columbia Swim Club.

He loved to learn and was a good student; he graduated from Hickman High School, MU and the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

He did an internal medicine residency at University Hospital. He began his internal medicine practice in 1999 associated with the Audrain Medical Center in Mexico, Missouri.

After that, he became a hospitalist for the rest of his career, starting at St. Johns Hospital in Springfield. In 2004, he initiated the hospitalist program at Boone Hospital Center. In 2010, he moved to Kauai, Hawaii, and joined the staff at Kauai Medical Clinic.

Following the death of his father in 2014, he joined the staff of Lake Regional Hospital. He loved working there with an excellent staff, including specialists. This was Rusty’s ideal work setting, where there was adequate time and specialists if needed to serve his patients. Everywhere he served, he was praised and appreciated by patients, staff and administration. He was a board-certified internal medicine physician with a license in both Missouri and Hawaii.

Rusty’s move to Kauai in 2010 was to court his life mate Dr. Melinda Menezes. They both grew up in Columbia, went to the same elementary school, swam on the same swim team and did their residency trainings at the same hospital. The summer before Rusty left for college, they briefly dated. In retrospect, they realized that the big feelings they had as teenagers were those of soul mates.

Rusty, Melinda and her two boys, walking and playing on the beautiful beaches, enjoying the delightful live Hawaiian shows and sampling island cuisine, created a happy life together. They also loved gardening and created a beautiful tropical landscape surrounding Melinda’s home.They both enjoyed cooking, though Rusty maintained Melinda was the superior cook.

Rusty enjoyed being a friend and father to Melinda’s sons, Victor and Tomás. Following his father’s passing, Rusty commuted from Kauai to work at Lake Regional Hospital the first 14 days of each month. He thrived on being able to see his Missouri family for a meal, plus overnight in his home on both sides of this work schedule.

In addition to swimming, biking, camping, hiking and fishing, Rusty enjoyed oil painting, landscape gardening and cooking. For those who were fortunate enough to cross paths with him socially or professionally, they found him to be quiet, thoughtful, intelligent and well-informed.

It felt wonderful to see him smile and laugh. He was a gentle, kind soul and spent much time and personal resources lifting up those who needed his amazing compassion.

He is survived by his mother, Audrey Spieler; his sister, Leslie Spieler-Winn, and her husband, Rick Winn; his nephews, Jackson Winn and Cotter Clinkingbeard; and his significant other, Dr. Melinda Menezes, and her two sons, Victor and Tomás Sánchez.

Since February, the COVID-19 virus blocked Rusty from flying to Kauai each month, and he could not get back to see Melinda, the love of his life. That added to the enormous stress he was unable to overcome.

Dr. Chris Elliott, who worked with Rusty for 10 years, wrote in his tribute: “When we look back at Rusty’s life of service and commitment to others, we should remember that how Rusty lived is more important than how he died and is the reason I believe him to be in Heaven getting the happy ending he deserves.”

You are invited to a Zoom celebration of Rusty’s life, which is hoped to be aired around the third week in August. The time of the Zoom video will be announced in the Missourian and on his mother’s Facebook page. His memorials will be focused on acts of kindness on a website and will also be announced at that time.

Online condolences may be shared at

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