John Raymond Sparke

John and Doris Sparke

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! 



  1. Roger Tarbutton on March 24, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    One of my favorite and most inspiring teachers at SMN. Wish I had kept up with him through the years. Got involved in local politics and ran for city council last fall. Lost a tough race but found it a rewarding experience and perhaps it was he who planted the seed that inspired me to do so.

  2. Mike Johnson on March 24, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    Mr. Sparke, as my wife and I knew him, was one of my two government teachers my Senior year at Shawnee Mission North. He co-taught with a Mr. Stansberry and it was in this class that my wife and I met in the fall of ’68 and we were married two and a half years later.

    I remember he was one of my favorite teachers as he would challenge us to think, but would not superimpose his opinions. I remember his smile, and that he cared, and really introduced me to how our government works.

    I am thankful I had him as a teacher, and only wish I could have found him to let him know he meant a lot to me personally.

  3. Edie Hettinger on March 16, 2020 at 11:31 am

    I wish I had known him. He sounds like a wonderful person.

  4. Deb Brown on March 14, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    Such a wonderful tribute to John. Love to you and Clyde

  5. Maxine Gibson on March 9, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    Jerri, I’m so sorry for your loss. Clyde did wonderful on the obituary. My thoughts are with you & your family.

  6. Rob Robinson on March 9, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    I had “Big John” as a teacher at Campus High in Haysville during the 1960-62 inaugural years of this somewhat unique high school and then reconnected with him at the school’s 50th reunion in 1960. We stayed in touch sporadically after that and I loved hearing his fascinating stories of the years he and Doris were “homeless” and traversed the highways and biways of North America. He lived a full, vibrant and interesting life and will be sorely missed by all who were fortunate enough to have spent time with. R.I.P. old friend.

  7. Derlene Bringle on March 9, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    John and Doris,
    You are the best thing that has ever wondered into my life about 23 years ago. You were the first strangers I ever met and let stay in my home and I gave a key to my house too. You became our family. I would get so excited when I seen that truck and camper roll into my drive way ever year. I loved hearing the stories about Jerri and Janice and the grandkids and looking through all the photos. Hearing about all the adventures from traveling while we had our morning coffee. Thank God for phones because when you couldn’t travel anymore I was able to still hear your voice and get so much advice. You both are my heroes. John and Doris, you know my heart and you know how I feel. Right now, my tears keep flowing but I know one day when its my turn to pass through to the next realm of this universe, I will find you both or maybe it will start from some dirty laundry again. LOL..
    Go rest high on that mountain until we meet again.

    Love you both Infinity.

    To the Family,
    Sorry for your loss. There are know words I can say to take the hurt and emptiness feeling away. Y’all are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Clyde & Jerri,
    That was written perfectly and thank you for sharing. My heart is heavy for you both.
    Thank you.

  8. Harry Simpson on March 8, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Rest John, until you hear at dawn,
    the low, clear reveille of God.

    Thank you for your service to this nation.

  9. Jack and Jan Ayres on March 7, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    We are so sorry to hear of John’s passing. Will always remember his smile, humor, encouragement, and words of wisdom. John and Doris were always so caring and supportive to the Ayres family, and we will forever have fond memories of both of them. Our sincerest condolences to Jerri and the rest of John’s family.

  10. BILL SASS on March 7, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Talked to him many times over the years and watched him throw horseshoes down here in Yuma. Watched allot of Football with Doris.

  11. Patricia Elaine Byrd Saner on March 7, 2020 at 9:34 am

    He was a great Government Teacher at SMN. I graduated 1968. He did love the USA and the Voting Process. Sounds like he had a very happy and full life. Our prayers are with all his family. Enjoy your time together to Celebrate His Life.

  12. Jeff Stafford on March 6, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    Jerri, My thoughts are with you and your family. I enjoyed reading the obituary. Made me think of my Dad and yours and their times at SMN together. Take care my friend. Jeff

  13. Lisa Darling on March 6, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    So sorry for your loss.

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