Nicholas Spaeth

nicholas spaeth

Nicholas John Spaeth, devoted son, father, husband, brother, and grandfather passed away on  March 16, 2014.  

Nick was born in 1950 in Mahnomen, MN., and grew up in Valley City, Fargo, and Bismarck, N.D.  The eldest of 10 children, Nick graduated with distinction from Stanford University, attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, and returned to Stanford for law school, where he served as managing editor of the Law Review. He clerked for the Honorable Judge Myron Bright on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.  He then clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White.

Nick returned to North Dakota to practice law at the Vogel Law Firm.  He was elected N.D. Attorney General in 1984. He was re-elected in 1988, where he argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1992, he waged an unsuccessful campaign to become governor of North Dakota. Invoking his characteristic self-deprecating sense of humor, Nick always said he "was retired by the voters."

After leaving politics, Nick worked as a partner in several national law firms, and as general counsel for three Fortune 250 companies. Most recently Nick partnered with equity investors to create a start-up company in North Dakota's Bakken oil field. Nick loved the legal profession and believed in paying forward the many opportunities presented to him over the years.  He served in many capacities to further education and justice, including serving for years on the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee, Stanford's Law School Board of Visitors and the Stanford University Alumni Board, as well as on numerous charities and doing extensive pro-bono work.  Additionally, he chaired the ABA Amicus Curiae Committee and served as an election judge in post-war Bosnia.

Throughout his life Nick received many awards and honors, but nothing meant more to him than his family and friends.  His wife and children were the joy of his life, and he loved spending time with them.  A big kid himself, he was the first to organize family games and activities and over the years taught dozens of kids and adults to water ski, play pinochle, poker, bocce ball, croquet or any board game known to man.

While many recognized Nick for his impressive professional work, those who knew him best admired him for his humor, compassion, generosity, spirituality and love of family and friends. His character was exemplified by an ability to see the good in every one and willingness to help those in need.  He had a forgiving nature and was a loyal friend.  

Though work took him far from home, Nick never lost his North Dakota roots, returning frequently to visit  and enjoy his annual pheasant hunt, which attracted friends, family, and colleagues from across the nation.

Nick was preceded in death by his mother Betty, and is survived by his wife Cindy, children Kevin (Marit), Carl (Holly), Will, Lizzie and two grandchildren, Annika and Henrik, and his father Jerome.  Siblings include Kitty Teigen (Tom), Becky, Shaheen (Mike), Jan Spaeth, Bonnie Bremer (Ken), Laurie Schepper (Ted), Paul Spaeth (Kelly), Sid Spaeth, Nancy Gentry (Robin), and Pat Spaeth (Laurel).  He is also survived by twenty-one nieces and nephews.

Nick was a kind and gentle man.  He will be missed and remembered with great love.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Synergy Services for youth and families affected by violence or the Center for Practical Bioethics.

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Memories Timeline


  1. Becky, this is for you from Cass and me. Happy/sad/funny/crazy memories. Love to you from us and to Charlie too, because there are a whole lot of memories there too.

  2. Kansas City MO – MissouriDear Cindy,

    I fondly remember waiting and talking at Visitation church while our little kids were attending Godly Play. I was so saddened to hear of your loss. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Carol Ann Sirokman & Family

  3. Bethesda MDDear Family,our hearts go out to you.
    He was a Gentleman as well as a gentle man. Nick was a rare politician whose love of honor animated his service to the public. Gifted, Competitive, Enthusiastic, Resolute he had a great sense of humor. Our State is poorer without him. We will miss Nick’s friendship he was a good and loyal friend. But we feel fortunate to have shared the earth with him for some sixty years.
    Gorman and Susan King

  4. Chicago ILMy deepest and heartfelt condolences to all the family and friends of Nick. What a wonderful world this would be if we had more people like Nick occupying this world and making the same difference in it that he did.

  5. Kansas City MOCindy, Will, and Lizzie,

    It was with sadness that I learned today of Nick’s passing. I have such wonderful memories of the Peru trip and the delightful dinners we shared as we explored Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Please let me know if I can do anything at school during the coming weeks.You all will be in our thoughts and prayers


    Robert and Ellen Wilson

  6. Bismarck North Dakota
    Nick was a very good classmate and teammate through the high school years at SMCHS. We developed an even better friendship during our junior year summer vacation while working at Art’s Texaco. We worked hard and were reliable employees. I remember the day when Art gave each of us a $.10 per hour raise from $1.00 to $1.10 per hour. We were both quite proud and gratified of our accomplishments. Nick went on to accomplish much more in his working career. Nick’s family has many reasons to be proud.

    The SMCHS Class of 1968 has many good and successful people. Nick is one of the best.

    All Nick’s classmates extend sympathies to the Spaeth family. Nick and the entire family are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Ken Schwartz (Class President)

  7. Tucson AZ
    My sincere sympathy to the family, relatives, and friends of Nick! I came to know Nick when he was a student at St. Mary’s High School in Bismarck. He showed great promise then which he accordingly and wonderfully fulfilled in his lifetime. He touched the lives of many people so positively. May he rest in God’s Peace! Nick will be remembered in my prayers and Masses! Fr. Casimir Paluck

  8. Rogers, MN
    Kevin, Carl, Cindy and Spaeth Family,
    I’m saddened to hear of Nick’s passing. I spent a lot of time with your family and have many wonderful memories. Lots of pinochle games were played and fun times at the lake cabin. I’m sorry that I can’t attend his funeral. Sending thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

  9. Bottineau ND
    Our sincere sympathy to the Nick Spaeth family and relatives. We have been and will continue to pray for you.

  10. Kansas City MOCindy and family,
    I was so surprised to hear of Nick’s passing and am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine losing my best friend so early in life’s journey. I will be thinking and praying for you and your family. Take care and I hope to see you soon at CC.
    God bless you,
    Linda Zesch

  11. Bismarck N.D
    .Dear Kevin, Carl & Spaeth family,
    I am so saddened to hear of Nick’s passing. I was so lucky to share in some great family time with you all while I was your nanny. Your dad was a great person & always was so kind to me I treasure the fun times we had together. May you find comfort in the memories you all have. My deepest sympathy to you all.

  12. Mark and I send our sympathies to Nick’s family. Nick was my first boss out of college when I worked for him as his legal secretary at the Vogel Law firm and also on his AG campaign. He was always so kind, patient, and taught me so much about the legal field. We were part of his first team of “Spaeth Cadets!” May you rest in peace Nick.
    Mark & Sheila Beauchene

  13. To Nick’s family:

    We just learned yesterday of Nick’s untimely passing.

    What a great loss not only to his family, but to North Dakota
    as well.

    I remember well some of our pheasant hunts together with Bud Sinner. Some were successful–others weren’t. But, we always had a great time swapping stories, the (slight) majority of which were true.

    Shirley and I would certainly be in Fargo tomorrow afternoon for a final tribute to Nick but for some continuing health issues in our family. Nevertheless, our thoughts and prayers will be with the entire Spaeth family.

    Until we meet again, Nick, to swap more stories…..


  14. New England ND
    To Nick’s family,

    We are saddened to hear of Nick’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this sad time.

  15. Fargo North Dakota
    I served on the Priairie Public Broardcasting Board with Nick. He was a joy, very professional and was key to the future of the organization. During his term, the President resigned and the station went in a new direction-all good and led by Nick. Will always remember him as a great guy and friend.

  16. Dickinson ND
    I was deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Nick’s death. I worked for Nick for five years as State Fire Marshal. Nick was a fair boss and always provided insightful leadership. It was a pleasure to work for him. Deepest sympathies to Nick’s family.

  17. Fargo North Dakota
    To the family of Nick,
    Our deepest sympathy in the loss of Nick. Our families grew close during our time in Bismarck. I always appreciated Nick’s intelligence, competitive nature, and willingness to share his time. He was a great asset to the mission of law enforcement and the whole justice system of North Dakota
    . Our thoughts and prayers are with you all and Nick.
    Brian, Barb, Carri, Jerad, and Nick.

  18. To Nick’s family — I was employed by Judge Bright during the time that Nick served him as law clerk, and we were close friends. Nick was extremely bright, fun, dedicated in his work, and helpful. I am saddened and very sorry for your loss. Good memories of Nick will always remain in my heart and mind. God Bless.
    June Boadwine

  19. Shawnee KansasOur hearts and prayers go out to Nick’s family and fellow friends. He was a valued colleague and friend who always had a good story and a kind word. We will miss him.
    Dean & Patricia Davison

  20. Moorhead MnMy thoughts and prayers are with your family. He was an intriguing and very intelligent man and he will be missed.

  21. Alexandria, Va.Mary and I are so very sorry for the loss of our friend, Nick. I will never forget how he set aside lucrative private sector opportunities to serve the people of North Dakota
    as Attorney General. I treasure memories of our times together on the campaign trail and in the State Capitol, where his work to advance the public’s interest was very solid. In the years that followed, Nick remained my always interesting friend. I will carry thoughts of him with me always and we will hold his loving family in our prayers.

  22. To the family of Nick Spaeth,
    We are deeply saddened by Nick’s death. He has been a long time friend since we served together in elected office. We extend our sympathies to all of you who are mourning for him. We are unable to be there for the funeral. We will pray for his eternal peace and for you.
    George and Jane Sinner

  23. Fargo ND
    Mike and I send our deepest sympathy to all of Nick’s family. His passing brought back a flood of memories from my early years of legal practice. Nick was a man of many talents. Far too early to lose him. Our very best, Adele & Mike Page

  24. Little Rock ArkansasI worked 2 1/2 years for Nick as his media liaison during his last term in office. He was an excellent boss and role model–intensively bright and intellectual–yet practical–engaged on the issues, with a good sense of humor. He hired professionals, not political friends, who would do the best job for the state and made the AG office operate much more efficiently and effectively. He’s the kind of politician we need today at all levels! The history of the N.D
    . attorney general’s office cannot be written without a huge chapter on his contributions. My prayers are with his family for their unimaginable loss, but please find comfort in the lasting impact Nick’s life had.

  25. Fargo ND
    To the family members of Nick Spaeth,
    Nick is my friend, former law clerk, and part of my extended family. I am deeply saddened by his passing. Nick and I have kept close touch over the past 37 years. He was a valuable associate of mine in my work. We had wonderful visits in North Dakota
    and other places. We exchanged views, pleasantries and confidences. Nick was a most treasured friend. He lived a very full and eventful life. His death leaves all of us very sad but in time the memories of a truly great person will ease the pain of his loss. I wish I could meet many of you in these very difficult days but I am away from home until April.
    I send my love, my warm regards and my sincere condolences to each of you.

  26. Overland Park KSWe are deeply saddened by Nick’s passing. We will always remember him as a gentle kind man. May peace be with him and his family.

    With Love,
    The Stanovcic Family

  27. West Fargo ND
    So sad to here of Nicks passing. He cared about people and justice. ND
    and the World lost one of the very best! Prayers go out to his family that they can hold together during the very difficult days ahead and know they will see him again.

    Sincerely, Jim Johnson

  28. Bismarck ND
    Connie and I express our sincere sorrow and prayers for Nick and to his family. He was a tremendous individual and will be missed by all who knew him. May his sould and those of all the faithfully departed rest in peace.

  29. Reno NVI’m an attorney who writes a syndicated employment law blog, When the Abuser Goes to Work, at I’ve written an article about my deep respect for Mr. Spaeth and his legal battle against age discrimination in hiring by our nation’s law schools. I conclude the article by stating, “Whatever may have caused him to leave this world, he left it a better place.”

  30. Bozeman MTDear Kitty, Becky, Jannie, Bonnie, Laurie, Paul, Sid, Nancy, Pat, and all the Spaeths,

    Please accept my deepest sympahty. I vividly remember the day you all blessed our neighborhood when you moved into your home on Mason Avenue., first 8 kids and then 10 of you. Nick was a big brother to be envied–dashing, responsible, atheletic, academic, loving, demanding, funny. I am sorry for your loss and hope your memories of him will help sustain you. One of my favorite memories of him is his wearing sports gear from St. Mary’s for the first time with great pride.


  31. Mesa Az. Kevin, Carl and family,

    I am so saddened to hear of Nicks death. We enjoyed being neighbors to the Spaeth family in Bismarck and also at Lake Melissa in Mn. I remember how he opened the doors to their home for the neighborhood kids on gubernatorial election night. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. Nick was a very special man. Rest in peace Nick.

  32. Mott ND
    Nick was a great, good guy, warm and generous. When he stopped in last fall, he promised that during the next pheasant season, he’d stay in my guest room. I’m going to miss that visit and miss Nick even more.

  33. Carmichael CANick was my mentor, and my friend. My heart is absolutely broken, and I pray that his family may find peace in the knowledge that Nick accomplished so much that was good. God bless you, Nick.

  34. Kemmerer WySo very sorry to hear of Nick’s death. My condolences to his family. He is now w/his mother whom he thought so much. He was always so kind, welcoming, & thoughful to Angela & me. May he rest in peace.

  35. Bismarck, ND
    Dear Spaeth Family,

    I imagine we all are searching for understanding of this tragic loss. This summer marks 50 years of friendship with Nick. Lots of memories. Many experiences.My last contact was last week, and he expressed how important our friendship has been, as he expressed frequently.

    Joyce and I send our condolences to the Spaeth family. I wish there was something we could do to share the pain of this loss. Please know that you are all in our prayers. Nick and I spoke of the importance of faith in our lives, and this is the time to depend on faith, when everything else now makes little difference.
    Charlie Volk

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