WWII Military Spouse & Mom turns 95! Marcella C. Sparks, a 20th Century trail blazer survives and thrives…still does a belly laugh!Posted: September 29, 2013
Mother celebrates her 95th birthday on this Saturday, September 28, 2013, at the Regent Care Center, Reno, Nevada! Marcella was just 23 and a single mom at home with first son Jerry when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the US Navy Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. We really don’t know how long she waited to find out whether or not Dad survived the attack while serving aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) on that horrific day. Many weeks later following the beginning of WWII, Dad showed up without advance notice for a short visit before returning to the Asiatic Pacific War. Both experienced profound joy and relief even though for a very brief period of time. This was just a warm up to a very long combat deployment during all of WWII for my father pictured above with mother. There would be more waiting, waiting, worry, and more waiting until Dad finally returned home in June 1945 just before WWII ended.
As a tribute to my mother on her 95th birthday, following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, revisiting some of the happiest times in her life back around 1940 when mom & dad were first married in Long Beach, California…
Photos by Brenda Humphreys, Regent Care Center
Mother is very sentimental about Long Beach. She and Dad were married in Long Beach where they spent Dad’s 6 weeks of shore leave until he shipped out to Pearl Harbor on the USS West Virginia. The following is Laura’s recollection of what Mother shared with her that day while reminiscing the early days of marriage in Long Beach.
“It was 1939 or 1940, in St. Paul Minn. Mother was about 19 or 20 years old, attending a girl’s finishing school in St. Paul when she met Juneth Sparks who was also attending the same school. They soon became good friends, even though Juneth was 2 years younger. They found a lot of common interests and ran in the same social circles.
Europe was at war and Japan was becoming very hostile in the Pacific. Surely the US would be joining soon. It was the beginning of another World War. Young able bodied men were enlisting in the United States military, and were almost immediately shipped out to various parts of Europe and the Pacific. It was expected and thought to be most honorable to serve our country. Eligible young men of dating age were becoming scarce in St. Paul. Short courtships and quick marriages were the norm. Men and women were anxious to tie the knot and even start a family before shipping out to far off destinations that were kept secret. If the men were lucky to come home alive, they knew it could be many months and even years before they would see our shores again. They wished to have a loved one waiting and writing to them.
Since Mother was ending an unsuccessful relationship with a young man, her friend Juneth suggested that she meet her older brother, Vernon. Vernon would be coming home for a short leave from sea duty in the Navy at that time. Dad had been in the Navy since 1936 and out at sea most of the time. Juneth encouraged her friend Marcella, and was sure she would be impressed with this tall, handsome and charming sailor.
Juneth set up a meeting between her friend Marcella Schaub and her brother Vernon Sparks, which was the beginning of a new Sparks’ generation before and after WWII. Following a whirlwind of dating and romance Marcella fell in love with Vernon, a tall, blond, handsome, romantic and adventurous sailor. On that short three week leave, she spent as much time as possible with her new man, Vernon. During that time she met the rest of Sparks’ family as well as introducing Vernon to the Schaub clan. Mother’s parents, especially her Dad, approved of this handsome, strong and capable sailor. Mother was most happy to receive her “Pa’s” approval.
The day for Vernon to ship out came too soon, much too soon to a destination he could not reveal. Marcella saw him off on a train headed towards the west coast of California, a distant seaport called Long Beach. Both of them promised to write each other as much as possible.
One day Mother received the letter she had been hoping for from Vernon. The letter contained a yellow gold diamond engagement ring and a one way train ticket from St. Paul to Los Angeles, California. Vernon explained he needed an answer as soon as possible because he would be shipping out soon. The US Navy Fleet was destined for Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. Vernon expressed his love to Marcella and his hope of starting a family with her before he shipped out. For most military men, losing their life was ever present causing a natural tendency to start a family before heading off to combat. He promised housing for Mother in Bell, California, with some friends of his after he shipped out. This was clearly a romantic and adventurous notion for Marcella to contemplate during this time, but also scary in terms of leaving her comfort zone in St. Paul, Minnesota and being married to a man who may not come home.
The prospect of moving away was romantic and exciting to Marcella and fearful as well. She had never seen the Atlantic Coast let alone the far away Pacific Coast. Mother had never in her life been outside of Minnesota. Long Beach was very close to Hollywood and she dreamed of seeing some of her favorite exotic movie stars. Her favorite pass time for Saturdays was viewing the latest movie releases at the local theatre. Mother was somewhat anxious about being married by a Judge in California. Marcella came from a very strict Catholic family, and so she hoped the marriage would be blessed by the Catholic Church sometime in the future. Vernon, being Lutheran, agreed that he would practice the Catholic beliefs with her and the children they hoped to have.
With the blessings of her family and much anticipation Marcella boarded the train. Vernon promised to be at the Los Angeles train station in a few days to meet her when she arrived.