John Raymond Sparke died March 1, 2020 at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Hospital in Merriam, Kansas after a lengthy battle with breathing disorders. This is how he died. Now here is how he lived:
He was born September 18, 1933 in Colorado Springs, Colorado to Elmer and Ada May (Zion) Sparke, the second of four children. He was raised on the family farm near Fellsburg, Kansas during the Dust Bowl and Depression years where his father engaged in wheat farming. Their home started off with no electricity, running water and indoor plumbing. Kerosene lamps were used for lighting and a pot-bellied stove for heating. He attended schools in Fellsburg and Lewis, Kansas. Just before he entered the eighth grade, John, his older brother Leroy and sister Shirley contracted polio. They all recovered from it, but John had to learn how to walk again. But walk again he did, and went on to play football, basketball and participated in track at the high school in Kinsley, Kansas.
After high school, he attended Kansas State University with the idea of getting a degree in Milling Chemistry. He found it to be “impossibly boring” and transferred to Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia and got a degree in teaching. It was while he was there that he met Doris Meredith who was to become his wife on September 5, 1954 in Marion, Kansas.
After graduation, John took a teaching contract at Olpe, Kansas where he taught algebra, geometry, biology, general science, and chemistry. Then Uncle Sam came calling in April 1956 when he received a notice from the Selective Service Draft Board telling him he had to report to active duty. He had been deferred all through college but afterward, he was eligible for the draft. John entered the Army and was eventually stationed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Doris joined him. Their first daughter Jerri Ann was born there in 1957.
After the service, John and Doris took teaching positions in Sabetha, Kansas. John taught history and government. It was here in 1959 that their second daughter Janice Adair was born.
John and Doris’ next teaching stop was in Haysville, Kansas where they taught at the new Campus High School. Also teaching at that school were Doris’ brother Bill Meredith and his wife Kay. Doris’ youngest sister Mary Jayne Meredith was a student there and had John, Doris, Bill, and Kay as instructors.
After their sojourn in Haysville, the John and Doris Sparke family moved to Overland Park, Kansas and then to Prairie Village, Kansas where John taught American Government and History at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park. It was here John taught until the 1980s. He always challenged his students to do critical thinking and was a much-beloved teacher there.
After retirement from teaching, John had a roofing company and also worked for a while at the Kansas Turnpike Authority. Both he and Doris were very active with the Kiwanis Club of Old Mission in Mission, Kansas and enjoyed dressing up in medieval times garb and selling peanuts for the Kiwanis at the Renaissance Festival.
For years during the summer teaching hiatus, the family traveled across the entire lower 48 states and into Canada. When Doris retired from teaching, she and John “hit the road” and traveled continuously for nearly twenty years with their address being wherever they were parked for the night. Their love of traveling and meeting people never ceased until Doris became ill and passed away in 2013. John’s last place of residence was at an assisted living facility called The Sheridan in Overland Park.
John had a passion for life and dearly loved his family. His friends were incalculable and he greatly enjoyed engaging in debate over numerous topics. He had his opinions but was always willing to listen to another person’s opinion with all due civil discourse.
John was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, daughter Janice (Sparke) Pearce and a sister Carol (Sparke) Pfister. He is survived by his daughter Jerri (Sparke) Hood and her husband Clyde; son-in-law Dave Pearce; granddaughter Änna (Dougan) King and her husband Mike; grandson Derek Dougan, his wife Raquel and their three sons: Derek, Caleb and Ryan; brother Leroy Sparke and his wife Ethel and sister Shirley (Sparke) Carpenter; and a whole host of nieces and nephews.
Interment will be held at a private ceremony this summer at the Meredith family lot in Roselawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Salina, Kansas.
Cards of condolence can be sent to Jerri Hood, 1586 East Cypress Lane, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72703. In lieu of flowers, the family feels that John would have liked for you to donate to the political party of your choice. And don’t forget to VOTE!