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December 9, 1942 — August 18, 2019

Grand Rapids, Michigan

John Edward Sparks would not let cancer dampen his outlook on life. He said, “don’t cry, it’s life. You live, you die – it’s been a good run.” He died on Sunday, August 18, 2019.

John loved his friends with gusto. Whether you grew up with him or happened to move in next door or across the street. If you met him during the wild and crazy ‘Ramblewood Days’ or became one of his golf buddies. If you are a Betty or one of their guys. John was devoted to each and every one of you.

John LOVED his family fiercely. He never hesitated to say ‘I love you’ to his sister, Julia (Fred) Pfannenstiehl, with whom he shared their birth date, December 9. He convinced her that she was his ‘prize’ so she had to do whatever he asked. His brother, Rick (Mary Ellen) Sparks, who he usually managed to exasperate on purpose. His daughter, Jodie Sparks-Gordon (1966-2005), his partner-in-crime. Nieces and nephews: Douglas (Margaret) Sparks, Deborah (Eric) Ritchie. and Angela (Chip) Cooper, Paul (Kelly Borchardt, Lauren (Chris) Guthrie and their children. He had a special place in his heart for his brother and sister in-laws: David and Jean Drzewiecki; Patty and Jim Leibenguth; Susie and Jerry VanZee, Ruth and Larry Johnson, John and Carol Drzewiecki, Michelle and Rich Talerico and all of their families.
On May 4, 1979, after ten years of trying to avoid it, John married Mary Ann (Drzewiecki) crowning her with the title of ‘my Polish Princess’ for the last 40 years. It was not unusual to hear him tell someone he “got the best cow in the barn.” Besides Mary Ann, he leaves behind his beloved riding mower, golf clubs, several worn out remotes and a stash of Busch Non-Alcohol Beer.

According to his wish, cremation has taken place. He absolutely did not want a funeral He will be laid to rest at St. Rita’s Cemetery in Maple City, Mi. A friend recently stated how happy he was to have had the opportunity to ‘experience’ John. In that spirit, there will be an open house gathering to share our memories and ‘experiences’ of John on Sunday, September 22, 2019 from 2:00pm until 5:00pm at Sunnybrook Country Club, 624 Port Sheldon St SW, Grandville, Michigan 49418.

Special thanks to the wonderful 5th and 9th floor cancer staff at Spectrum Hospital, Spectrum Hospice, Lou and Dick Whiting and Ron Bovee. If you wish, please consider contributions be made to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign John’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:



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4 Condolences

  1. Kelly Roelofs on September 4, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    John was one of a kind! Best neighbor anyone could ask for, and great cat babysitter, lol. Maryann and family, you are in our thoughts and prayers. I’m sure he’s watching over you. Hoping he’s having a cocktail with Harry in heaven. Love Kelly and family

  2. Mary & Dave Dechow on September 5, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    Mary Ann,
    We are so, so sorry to hear about John. He was a wonderful man and a great friend. We will miss him very much and often share wonderful memories of times together. Love you. Dave & Mary Dechow

  3. Jim Staal on September 15, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    I will miss you so very much, John. I loved your boyish manner, your kindness to me during some of my rougher spots in life. We last spoke via phone shortly before August 18 and promised to call again…”soon”. Sadly, it wasn’t soon enough. Thank you for being a positive influence on my life. Love you, and will miss you, man.

    Jim Staal

  4. James B Bass on September 18, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    John, the best days of summer were always up north with you as a roommate. 12+ years. You will be hard to replace. Always there to show me the way, always the example. Patty and I will deeply miss you. As you said, “Life goes on” , it will, but in a smaller world now. Fairways and Greens.

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