In Remembrance: Kurt W. Spohn ’76 Died on December 13 2023

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Kurt W. Spohn, 70, Yale College Class of 1977 (entering Class of 1976), died on December 13, 2023, after a decades-long battle with cancer, which he faced with bravery and determination.  A resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, he was born in Chicopee, Massachusetts, on June 23, 1953, a son of the late M/Sgt. Gustav J. Spohn and Isabelle M. (Ross) Spohn. He is survived by his devoted wife, June Au Spohn (Honolulu), the love of his life; a sister, Isabelle (Rick) Spohn (Twisp, Washington); two brothers, Gustav (Sarah) Spohn (Hamden, Connecticut) and Albert (Angela) Spohn (Rochester, Minnesota); and a number of nieces, nephews, and their children.

Kurt’s love of surfing prompted his move to Hawaii more than four decades ago. But he soon found his time on the waves limited by the demands of his job as an attorney in the Maui and Hawaii county prosecutors’ offices and, later, as a deputy attorney general for the state of Hawaii. A highlight of his career was his instrumental role in drafting criminal justice legislation that ultimately became law—including state sex offender registration laws. Upon his retirement, the governor and lieutenant governor of Hawaii proclaimed August 30, 2006, Kurt Spohn Day” in honor of his distinguished service to the state and its people.

Small in stature but big of mind, Kurt possessed an impressive breadth of knowledge on a wide range of subjects. He had a nuanced view of the law, politics, and other major topics that made it difficult to predict where he might stand on a given subject. But the operative principles were always fairness and evenhandedness. He put great faith in reasoned discussion as a way of arriving at the truth. There were few things he enjoyed more than a spirited but friendly debate with family and friends.

Kurt also dabbled in poetry, which revealed a compassionate interior nature wrapped inside a prosecutorial exterior. In one poem, he wrote, Turn the other cheek / Please be honest, please be brave / And stand up for the weak and frail / Live your life like God is watching / Every small detail.”  

He loved Hawaii and was passionate about its flora and fauna, its mountains, its people, its sea, and its night sky. An avid amateur astronomer, he set up a high-powered telescope on his apartment balcony for early morning viewing of the heavens.

Kurt earned a BA in history from Yale, where he was a member of Berkeley College, and a law degree from the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College.

Swimming played a big role in Kurt’s life from age seven through college. He swam competitively in Florida at Satellite High School in Satellite Beach and with the South Brevard Y Swim Club. Later, he was a member of the varsity swimming team at Yale. He set a national age-group record as a teenager in the 220-yard butterfly and a Yale freshman record in the 200-yard butterfly. Prior to competing in the 1972 Olympic trials, he spent a year training with the Santa Clara Swim Club in California.

The son of a career Air Force serviceman, he spent his formative years in locations around the country, including Chicopee, Massachusetts; Charleston, South Carolina; Fairbanks, Alaska; Saranac, New York; San Diego, California; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Satellite Beach.

—Submitted by the family.

1 remembrance

  • Albert F Spohn
    Albert F Spohn, 2:40pm April 29 2024 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I couldn't have asked for a better brother. For a period of time, I was at Wesleyan while Kurt was at Yale - the times I spent with him and his friends in New Haven were some of my most precious memories. Godspeed, big brother!

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