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Apr
24
2024
Obituaries

John Michael Sparks

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John Michael Sparks, beloved and respected dentist, devoted husband of 51 years, and loving father and grandfather, died Feb. 15, 2024, in Bethesda, Maryland. He was 80.

Dr. Sparks, affectionately called “G-Pops” by many in his later years, was born in Washington, D.C., Jan. 14, 1944. His parents, John and Marguerite, and his brother Christopher, predeceased him. He grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he developed many childhood friendships that lasted his lifetime. One friend described him as the “center of our basketball team and the center of many people’s lives.”

He attended Miami University (Ohio), Antioch College (Ohio) and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (Massachusetts), where he earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine. It was his time in the United States Army, as a general dentistry officer, where he first honed his skills and craft for a career that spanned four decades and took him to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, to train and serve, and where he and Linda made lifelong friends.

Boston is where he met the love of his life, Linda Handy, a nursing supervisor. Linda brought him north to meet her family in her hometown of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and they welcomed him into the Lebanese Handy fold as one of their own. They married on Feb. 10, 1973, ultimately settling in Litchfield, New Hampshire, after his service in the Army.

Dr. Sparks set up his dental practice in Litchfield in 1976, and it grew so much that he expanded to a second office on Brown Avenue in Manchester. His patients trusted him for his soft-spoken manner, gentle approach and commitment to exceptional care. His passion was alleviating people’s dental pain and solving complex dental issues. He literally made people smile. Dr. Sparks had the most loyal and long standing staff, whom he treated as family. He also had wonderful colleagues whom he respected and with whom he enjoyed collaborating to provide optimal patient care.

Education was paramount for Dr. Sparks. He sought out opportunities to find and master the “cutting edge” techniques and technology in dentistry, with courses at The Pankey Institute (Florida) being one of his favorite and most recent academic endeavors. Dr. Sparks supported every possible educational opportunity for his children, believing that whether in the classroom, in a profession, on the field or court, the opportunity to learn and to improve was how you could find your purpose and “pay it forward.” He reminded his family often that, “the joy is in the journey.”

Dr. Sparks created an oasis for his family on Lake Willoughby, Vermont, where everyone gathered during the summer and sometimes for a “white Christmas.” Sitting with his wife on the dock, watching his 13 grandchildren swim and waterski, building bonfires and marveling at the beauty of these surroundings brought him great happiness and peace. All were welcome.

In his later years, Dr. Sparks spent much time in the Washington, D.C., area and in Durham, North Carolina, with his children and grandchildren. They were the joy of his life, and they adored their G-Pops. He was an avid sports fan, especially basketball and the Duke Blue Devils, where he would accompany his grandchildren to games and buy them all the snacks and drinks to their delight. He was an extraordinarily generous man.

Dr. Sparks lived a full and happy life, he loved his family unconditionally, and he was a man of deep faith. He is survived by his devoted wife, Linda Sparks, his brother David (Diane), his three brothers-in-law, Michael Handy (Diane), Netcy Handy (Barbara) and Jeffrey Handy (Terri); his sister-in-law Andrea Handy; nine nieces and nephews and their families; his four blessed children and their spouses, Samantha Ekstrand (Robert), Shaughnessy Sparks, Sarajane Verghese (Ajit) and Stefanie Smith (Stephen); along with his 13 energetic grandchildren who brought him abundant laughs and smiles: Emmaline Ekstrand, William Ekstrand, Eliza Ekstrand, Samuel Ekstrand, Eloise Ekstrand, Savannah Smith, Sullivan Smith, Vivianna Verghese, Violet Verghese, Vaughn Verghese, Sterling Smith, Vincenzo Verghese and Sawyer Smith.

Visiting hours will be held Friday, March 15, 2024, 5–8 p.m., at Sayles Funeral Home, 525 Summer St., St. Johnsbury, Vermont. A Catholic funeral Mass will be held Saturday, March 16, 2024, at 11 a.m., at St. John the Evangelist Church — Corpus Christi Parish, 49 Winter St., St. Johnsbury, Vermont (where Linda and Michael were married), followed by burial with military honors in Mt. Calvary Cemetery, 6 St. John’s Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont; and then a reception will be held at Brantview House, 15 Brantview Drive, St. Johnsbury Academy.

In lieu of flowers and in honor of Dr. Sparks’ passion for learning, a donation in memoriam to one of his favorite schools in support of the faculty and/or the athletic programs — St. Paul’s School (New Hampshire), Holderness School (New Hampshire), The Pankey Institute (Florida) or Duke University Women’s Lacrosse (North Carolina) — would be meaningful and impactful.

Memories and condolences may be shared online at CaledoniaLifeServices.com.

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