Jerry Lee Sparks passed away at Providence Centralia Hospital after a lifetime of service to his community and country.
Jerry was born on Sept. 11, 1946, to James Robert Sparks and Patricia Arlette Osborn. After graduating from Kelso High School, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a combat engineer. He was deployed to the Vietnam War, receiving the Purple Heart in combat. He also spent time at the Peruvian Embassy before an honorable discharge.
Jerry moved back to Cowlitz County, starting a career at the Cowlitz County Juvenile Facility, where he started a work crew program and was often referred to as the “grandfather of juvenile work crews.” His work to establish the juvenile work crew helped pave the way for other agencies and states to emulate the successful program. Jerry’s proudest work accomplishment was partnering with the Summer Youth Employment Program and CAP’s self-housing project, taking summer youth crews out to learn the construction trade under the supervision of construction managers. The crews learned how to interview for a job and were able to keep their tools after the completion of the summer job.
Jerry spent much of his time with his family. He enjoyed fishing, art and any hands-on projects. He loved carving unique wooden walking sticks that he would generously give away.
Jerry was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather to a large family. Jerry had a sharp, infectious humor coupled with a kind heart. From spontaneous water and food fights inside the house to practical jokes that made you “cry-laugh,” Jerry could make anyone smile.
Jerry was preceded in death by three of his children, Willie, Joseph (Bud) and Emma. Jerry is survived by his wife of 25 years, Beckie O’Neill, brother Tim, and sisters Patty and Donna, along with many nieces and nephews. He is also survived by five more children: Danika, Nathan, Barbara, Joshua and Kiyomi, his many grandchildren, one special great-granddaughter, and many others who considered him dad or papa.
“Jerry lived more days smiling than not” and we will all miss “our naughty angel papa.”
Jerry’s celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. on June 30, 2023, at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis, Washington, 98532, with reception immediately following.