Jeanette Spiegelberg: Tough Cookie, Chili Pepper, Indomitable Spirit


For as long as family members can recall, Jeanette Spiegelberg aspired to ride the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. She was no stranger to taking on challenges, “a tough cookie,” said her daughter Arla.

Jeanette grew up in central Alaska and gave birth to her first of five children in a cabin without electricity or running water. Would she bonk on STP? Not likely. But training for a ride like the STP is a time-consuming hobby.

Jeanette invested herself in family --every summer she would host “Grandma camp,” a week of crafts and outdoor fun on the family farm in Centralia--, work and graduate school. After finishing her Masters of Education this February, Jeannette finally found some much-deserved free time. So Jeanette and her daughter Arla committed to riding the 203-miles from Seattle to Portland.

“Mom jumped in with both feet,” said Arla. “She immediately bought a new bike, subscribed to magazines and read every tip and training tool she could find.”

Despite living 235 miles apart, the women agreed to meet one weekend a month to ride together. In between, they would go on separate training rides, following Cascade’s sample training schedule.

At one point, Arla found a picture of two chili peppers riding bikes and half-seriously pitched the idea of getting celebratory tattoos after crossing the STP finish line. Never one to shy away from adventure, Jeanette had only one question: “Ankle or shoulder?”

Everything was on-track for a memorable and fun STP when disaster struck.

On an after-work training ride with a friend in June, Jeanette, only 60 years old, unexpectedly passed away. While doctors are unsure exactly what happened, they suspect Jeanette went into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy.

Family and friends celebrated Jeanette’s life and mourned her death at her church and Centralia College where she served for more than 20 years.

While Arla will not be riding STP this year, she holds out hope for the future. But she’ll miss her mother’s encouraging spirit.


“We always joked that I would bring a tow-rope with me so I could tie onto her bike,” said Arla.

Just after Jeanette’s passing, Arla went to her mother’s house and found two custom-printed t-shirts emblazoned with the biking chili peppers. She planned to surprise Arla with them before the ride.

The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic is one event with 10,000 stories. We at Cascade are truly touched by Jeanette’s and wish she could be here to tell it herself. 

Centralia College has set up a memorial fund in Jeanette’s honor, providing scholarships to students in the early childhood education program. Please give generously to the Centralia College Foundation in honor of this amazing woman.

Share this post