Barbara Sparks loved to laugh, to write children’s stories and do crafts, and to spend time with family and friends. She worked hard, volunteered at her church, and baked the best chocolate-chip cookies. She enjoyed looking at an American flag waving in the breeze on a sunny day, and took loving care of her pet birds.
Barbara traveled through life with great cheer and a beautiful kindness. She passed away Monday, Sept. 4, 2017, just one week after her 80th birthday. Her son, Glen, is writing this article with a heavy heart and a few tears.
Mom, the journey on Earth that you began on Aug. 28, 1937, is now complete. You stand in Heaven now and have met your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You taught countless Sunday School children through the years about Jesus. You also served as Sunday School superintendent at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Crestwood.
Besides working with the Sunday School, you helped on the altar guild, did a turn or two as church secretary, spent many years on the Board of Evangelism, and joined the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML).
I’m looking at all these scrapbooks that you put together. Boy, you took lots of pictures! I see snapshots of us at the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Space Needle, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. You traveled through nearly half of our 50 states and visited five or six major-league ballparks. You did so much. I want people to know more about you.
My mom was the youngest child of John and Virginia Grivet (nee Frisch). She grew up with her older brother, Johnny, and her sister, Virginia. Mostly, they lived in St. Louis. Times were tough, though. My grandfather found temporary work on an oil rig in the Texas panhandle.
Mom left St. Louis the day after she graduated from McKinley High School in 1956. She and my grandmother moved to southern California, a place filled with sunshine and optimism. Aunt Ginny and Uncle Ralph had moved there a few years earlier. First, though, mom stopped off in Houston and saw her brother and his young family. My Uncle Johnny has settled in Texas after serving in the Army. Maybe, my mom also took a fishing trip with her dad, in the Gulf of Mexico or on Hall’s bayou.
Soon enough, mom and my grandmother arrived in Santa Monica, Calif., a cozy beach town. Mom worked at General Telephone and, later, at System Development Corporation (SDC), the world’s first computer software company. She met her lifelong friend, Darlene, in the Pacific Palisades. The two looked for movie stars and spent many warm days at Muscle Beach. Aunt Ginny and Uncle Ralph hosted parties at their house on San Vicente Boulevard.
In time, my mom got married, and I came along on April 11, 1964. “Baby Glen,” the darling of Mar Vista. I’m looking at all these pictures of us taken outside our apartment, on the beach, at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, and all the other sites. I see dozens taken at Douglas Park.
You bought me my first Dodgers cap and that made me a fan forever. We went to the movies, you cheered me on at Little League games even when I didn’t hit a lick, and you introduced me to The Great Escape. One year, we went to the Tournament of Roses Parade.
You’d make root beer floats or popcorn, and you watched The Rockford Files and Columbo. You loved to sew. You probably made half my shirts when I was a little kid. How cool was that? Of course, I get my love of reading and writing from you.
Eventually, we moved to St. Louis. You wanted to be closer to family. Aunt Ginny and Uncle Ralph had done the same thing. Here, you swapped jokes with your niece Michelle and nephews Michael and Gary. Michael liked to say how much you helped him with his chemistry set and how you took him to see Tora! Tora! Tora! at the Aero Theatre when he was a little boy. You kept writing your children’s stories and published several of them, including one in Jack and Jill. Yep, I’ll be keeping those stories forever, along with that ceramic St. Bernard you painted for me and all the needlework that you did. You loved to make things. You drew so well. Oh, and thank you for keeping all those scrapbooks filled with articles that I wrote for the newspaper.
I mentioned your love of birds. Really, you loved all animals. You adored your dog Buttons, and you smiled at Alfred and Sammy, brother-and-sister adopted cats. It sure looks like you loved feeding that giraffe at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. That was during a trip you took to California about 10 years ago to see Darlene, and you had a great time. You look so happy in those pictures. I think maybe you loved the bears most of all.
You joined Missouri Right to Life and other groups. Every January, you boarded a bus and traveled to Washington D.C. as part of the Pro-Life march. You loved all children, born and unborn. You helped with Girl Scouts, and you loved reading to little boys and girls. As an OSAIS tutor, you’d laugh along with the kids. They loved you. You started volunteering with OASIS after retiring from 20 years as an administrative assistant at the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. You told me several times that you loved working there and going to morning chapel.
You were so happy when Pam and I told you we were getting married. She is showing me so much love during this hard time. Family life is good. Ian and Emily have graduated from high school and are making their way in life as adults. Ian is in the Coast Guard, and Emily is going to college. Can you believe that? Not too long ago, they were clowning around and wrestling in the house as little kids do. You were cheering them on at soccer games and volleyball matches. Life is short and a precious gift that God gives to us. We should use it wisely.
I’m so happy you came with us on our trip to Washington, D.C., one summer. You toured the White House and visited Arlington Cemetery. We climbed the Lincoln Memorial steps and looked out from the top of the Washington Monument. I’m also so glad you could go to Louisville with us to see David, Angie and Linda. You got to know Shelby, and you wore orange on Tyler’s 16th birthday party. Because, y’know, Tyler liked orange. We also drove down to Houston to see Uncle Johnny and Aunt Joyce. You liked all those deer that romped around in their yard.
I’ve spoken to your friends, to Johnny, to Joyce, and to Pastor Smith the last few days. I’ve e-mailed our cousin Lyman and sent a message to Jay from Salem. They pass along their deepest sympathies. Your niece Toni said, “Aunt Barb was so sweet to me. She had such a gentle, kind spirit, and I will always remember her for her kindness.” Kit sends his love.
Mom, I know the last several years were hard. You battled a nasty disease, and you fought it to the end. The good people at Avalon Gardens provided you with great care. I’m not thinking about the disease right now, though. I’m thinking about the smiles and all the good times. You supported me every single day. You always told me that you loved me, and I felt that love in my heart. I still do. We’ll see each other again someday. Mom, I love you.
Services: Visitation at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Monday, September 11, 10:00 a.m. until service at 11:00 a.m. Interment Memorial Park Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Missouri Right to Life in the name of Barbara Sparks (http://missourilife.org/secure/donate.html), or to an animal-welfare organization of your choice in Barbara’s name.