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Obituary

Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Garvin County, Oklahoma
Submitted by: Jo Aguirre

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© Stufflebean~Coffey Funeral Home
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
July 6, 2015

Baxter Abbott Sparks Jr

Baxter Abbott Sparks, Jr. "Abbott", died at his longtime home in Dallas on July 6, 2015, from complications of cancer. He was 95.

Memorial Services were held at Saint Michaels' and All Angels Episcopal Church, 8011 Douglas Ave., 75225, Dallas, at 11:00 A.M. on Thursday, July 9, 2015, Rev. Bob Dannals, Rector, presiding. Posthumous presentation of a military award by the U.S. Marines and a reception will follow.

Services in Dallas, Texas are entrusted to the Sparkman Hillcrest Funeral Home & Memorial Park.

Graveside services will be held at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery Pavilion, Pauls Valley OK, at 1:30 PM, on Friday, July 10, 2015.

Interment has been entrusted to Stufflebean-Coffey Funeral Home in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.

Sparks was born to Baxter Abbott and Vivian Sparks on November 11, 1919 in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma

He was an only child. He came from a pioneering family that moved from the South to Texas and Oklahoma. His ancestors were farmers, ranchers and preachers. His father, a gentle, soft-spoken Oklahoman who retired after working for 63 years in the First National Bank of Pauls Valley, was a great encourager, urging young Sparks to live his life to the fullest.

Sparks excelled early in sports and singing, a favored avocation. He took his father at his word and enhanced his colorful heritage, developing interests as broad and varied as the Texas plains. World War II punctuated his attendance at Oklahoma University. Joining the Navy, Sparks participated in the invasions of Guam and Saipan as a Beach Master and of Iwo Jima and Okinawa as a member of the planning staff. He saw the flag go up on Mt. Suribachi from the deck of the Estes.

Returning from the war, Sparks had a big decision to make: whether to pursue a promising singing career, or settle down and raise a family. He chose the latter, married his college sweetheart, and moved to Dallas. But his deep interest in music, in travel, and in people never waned and continued throughout his lifetime.

Sparks worked for, ultimately acquired, and fully developed an international publishing company, Petroleum Engineer Publishing Company ("PEPCO"), which he later sold to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. At the helm of PEPCO, Sparks published seven magazines and a score of books, guides and engineering aides, worldwide. By 1972, PEPCO had subscribers in 102 countries and offices in six. In 1973 he spearheaded business "détente" with the U.S.S.R., by establishing a joint hydrocarbons publishing venture. The first of its kind, the arrangement saw PEPCO's contents translated in Moscow and distributed in Russia and Eastern Europe. Sparks conceived of the venture as a means of enhancing worldwide oil production and at the same time, aiding in the balance of trade.

Sparks' literary projects covered a broad range of topics. In 1986 he co-authored CATTLE IN THE COLD DESERT (Utah St. Univ. Press) along with Dr. James. A. Young, which has become a university ecology textbook. In part, it chronicles the life of Sparks' granduncle, John Sparks, a cattle baron and an early Governor of the State of Nevada.

Sparks' frequent international travels, which began in the 50's, included more than thirty countries. He was an excellent photographer. He frequently wrote wonderful cards and letters, sending them to friends, family, statesmen and military personnel, thanking them for a job well done or encouraging them for a trial well endured. He always had a gracious comment for anyone he knew. He loved meeting and getting to know people in every walk of life. He remembered their names almost always, striking up fast friendships quickly. He had friends around the world and served on the boards of multiple organizations, national and international.

Golf was a primary passion for Sparks, who was a longtime and loving member of White Mountain Country Club (Pinetop, AZ), Las Campanas (Santa Fe, NM), and Northwood Country Club, and was a founding member of Preston Trail County Club, as well as the Dallas Petroleum Club.

Until shortly before his death, Sparks continued to pursue - in correspondence, on his i-Phone, and via email - a worldwide network of family, friends, golf, genealogy, mineral interests, the U.S. Marines, WWII, military subjects, and as always, music. He attended the 50th Anniversary of the Battles of Iwo Jima, Guam and Saipan with eldest son Brady; traced his ancestry to an English settler who migrated as an indentured servant in the 1660's; visited remote islands in the South Pacific; toured warships; explored ancestral southwest ranchlands; and enjoyed golf outings, worldwide.

Survivors, who will cherish his memory, include Vicki, his wife of 39 years, and two sons, Braden ("Brady") by previous marriage, and his wife, Christie; son Ryan, and his fiancé, Lauren Jones; eight grandchildren, including four Underwoods, Gentry, Baxter, Hilary, and Anne, and four Sparkses, Abbie, Wheeler, Cameron, and Hannah; each of their respective spouses; and thirteen great-grand-children. Sparks was predeceased by his first wife, Jean, and their beloved daughter, Andrea Sparks Underwood ("Andee").

Sparks was as industrious as any one man possibly could be, to the very end of his life. He made you want to get up and do something, get out and enjoy somewhere, or go play a round of golf.

Some of his sayings were: "It's all about people;" "Luck plays a part;" "Accept responsibility;" "Develop your instincts for understanding people and situations;" "That's baseball;" and a family favorite -- "Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment," and finally, "Go to church, say your prayers, and respect the Christian parents and predecessors who were America's pioneers and developers." He was one of those.

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