Three days after a premature anniversary party, Donna Sparks succumbed to cancer, dying in the couple’s Lakeland, Fla., home on Aug. 23. Her husband, James died the next morning. He was 74 and she was 69.
James Sparks hailed from Ironton, Ohio, and Donna grew up in Ashland, Ky. The couple moved to Florida in 1984, living in Port St. Lucie and later in Winter Haven and then Lakeland. They moved to Polk County for its fishing and helped found the Guys and Dolls Bass Club.
James was a Vietnam veteran and retired from the Army as Sgt. 1st Class. He was diagnosed with lung cancer about a decade ago and had half of a lung removed. The cancer returned last year. A few weeks later, Donna Sparks received the same diagnosis and was told she had three to six months to live. She went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments that stretched that life span, but James responded badly to chemotherapy and had to stop the treatment.
James and Donna Sparks occupied separate hospital beds. Their daughters, Terri Maniscalco and Tina Adams would get their father into a wheelchair and roll him beside their mother each night so they could hold hands and hug. On Aug. 19, Maniscalco and Adams and their brother, Jay Sparks, gathered at their parents’ home and crafted the idea of staging an anniversary party. Given permission through subterfuge to abandon their fights, the couple declined quickly. The day after the party, Donna Sparks told family members she would die in two days. James Sparks told his son that he would die soon after his wife.
Both predictions proved accurate. Donna died about 4 p.m. Aug. 23 and that night his two daughters told James he was free to “let go.” His death came 17 hours after his wife’s.
James and Donna Sparks were cremated.
Mr. Sparks was the son of the late Edward James Sparks and Rosie Wurts Sparks. He is survived by three sisters, Gloria Hunt, Patty Palmer and Vickie Stidham, all of Ironton.
Mrs. Sparks was the daughter of the late Donald J. Coburn and Anna-Margaret Coburn.
In addition to their three children, the couple are survived by 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.