Deceased January 12, 2023

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In Memory

Bob Sparks died Jan. 12, 2023, seven years after contracting thyroid cancer. His personal honesty, optimism and modesty made him a favorite with many in the class.

Bob came to Amherst from St. Louis, Mo. The Glee Club was a profound experience for him, giving him experience in exacting music performance and travel around the world. I remember how easily Bob befriended people in each country, and how genuinely enthusiastically he greeted all the people we met. His transparent enjoyment of others would have made him a most successful American diplomat.

Bob spent his junior year at Vassar College, where he realized that Amherst’s all-male social and educational environment did not suit him. He advocated for coeducation at Amherst.

After Amherst, he earned an M.A.T. from Brown University and went on to teach history in the same community where the family of Zelda, his wife of almost 48 years, lived.

The couple moved two years later to St. Louis, where Bob soon took over management of the family business, Lumberyard Supply Co.

Bob delighted in the various roles he was asked to play. He and Zelda were extraordinarily dedicated to each other, especially through their serious illnesses; they took pleasure in raising their son and daughter; and Bob was especially popular as playmate to his grandchildren. He derived great satisfaction from engagement with his synagogue community, where he served on the board. Bob believed that you need to “show up”; indeed, he did, at college reunions, weddings, family milestones and celebrations with friends.

In his 50th anniversary book, Bob wrote of his Amherst thesis adviser as “a good man in every sense of the word.” How fitting as a description of Bob Sparks himself. 

Jeff Cartwright-Smith ’71