Whole Number 195
Born on July 4, 1907, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Jack Burton Sparks, Sr. died in his 94th year on December 14, 2000, at his home in Renton, Washington. He had been an enthusiastic i and generous member of our Association for over 40 years His widow, Ina Ree Curless Sparks, has sent us the photograph reproduced above. Jack and Ina were the parents of five children: sons Jack B. Sparks, Jr. and Michael 0. Sparks, and daughters Louanna R. Cook, Maria K. Wright, and Lynette J. Sparks. There are eighteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Jack was a descendant of Richard Sparks (born ca.1725, died ca.1792) of Middlesex County, New Jersey, and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, about whom we published all our known facts in the Quarterly of December 1971, Whole No. 76. It was Richard Sparks's son, Walter Sparks (ca.l760-ca.1827/30) and wife Phoebe, who were Jack's gr.-gr.-gr.-grandparents. An article featuring Walter Sparks was published in the Quarterly of December 1987, Whole No. 140.
A charming eulogy for his father was delivered at his funeral by Jack B. Sparks, Jr. The portion of this tribute pertaining to his father's youth is quoted below:
I am proud to be here today to talk about my Dad. I am also pleased that this will, perhaps, be the first time I get the final word on Dad.
Dad was born July 4th, 1907, in Muskogee, Indian Territory, Oklahoma. He always reminded us that he was not born on a reservation, but rather in Indian Territory of the Muskogee Tribe of Creek Indians. Oklahoma became a state later that same year of 1907.
He was born to Ada Louise Lewis Sparks and John Burton Sparks. An old Indian doctor who placed him in a sheet, which was hung on the bedpost, delivered Dad. The Indian doctor was not proficient at baby delivery and did not tie his umbilical cord. When the regular doctor arrived (by horse and buggy) and checked him out, the doctor found that Dad had lost a lot of blood and remarked that, if he lived, he would be a runt. And Dad was a runt. He peaked out at 5'4" (about 4'8" in the end). As a baby he was so small that he fit into a cigar box. Dad always said he was short because of the umbilical cord thing. When we were older, however, we noticed that two of Dad's sisters were even shorter than he was. They were not delivered by an old Indian doctor who failed to tie off their umbilical cords.
Dad's early years were spent in Oklahoma and Kansas. When he was young, he worked with his father helping build houses. Dad drove a team of horses hauling sand, gravel and lumber for his dad. His parents divorced, leaving him to work to support his mother and three sisters before he was a teenager. Dad's fatherless family moved to Kent, Washington, in 1924, where he finished high school, graduating in 1928 (he started school late due to health reasons). As small as he was. Dad played football and participated in track and wrestling. Dad also enjoyed radios and electronics. The first radio he ever owned was one he built himself. Upon graduation, he immediately went into electronics. He furthered his education in electronics at Oklahoma A&M and at MIT in his military days. While working on an electric motor and cleaning it with gasoline, someone plugged the motor in, resulting in an explosion. The explosion burned off his hair. At least that's how Dad explained his baldness.
Dad kept busy. In addition to electronics, he worked for a number of years as a volunteer fireman for the Kent Fire Department. He learned to fly and flew a biplane. When young, he could scale the side of a building and walk a tight rope. Many of the stories Dad told us were from his years in the National Guard. He joined the Guard in 1925, before finishing high school, and served for 14 years.
His first time driving a car occurred when his friend took Dad along with him to Seattle to meet his ship going to Alaska. The friend took off running to catch the ship and threw Dad the keys to his Model T Ford and said, "Take it home." Dad hollered back, "I don't know how to drive!" The friend hurried back, told Dad quickly how to use the pedals and gears, and dashed off again to board the boat. Dad said he finally got the car going and drove it all the way back to Kent, driving along the gutter. The next day a friend at the Fire Station said, "I saw you driving a car along the gutter. I didn't know you could drive." Dad re- plied, "I couldn't until I got in it." The friend asked if he had any trouble driving. Dad replied, "Only keeping it pointing in the right direction."
Dad was a dedicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. He had two friends, Moritz Marlow and Paul Dahlberg, one a member of the LDS Church and the other a member of the Reorganized LDS Church. Much discussion ensued back and forth. Finally, Moritz gave Dad a Book of Mormon, which he read. He received a testimony of this book and was baptized a member of the LDS Church on August 6, 1933...