James Allen Sparks

James Allen Sparks

James “Jim” Allen Sparks, age 86, of Madison passed away on December 22, 2019 at Ingleside Manor in Mount Horeb after a brief illness.

He was born on May 31, 1933 in Washington Kentucky, the son of Sherley Lee Sparks and Lillie Mae Sparks (nee Snyder).

Jim was a graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the University of Wisconsin. He met his wife of 64 years, Pauline Zahrte while both attended Washington Semester in Washington DC . Their first date lasted 12 hours and included walking from one end of the city to the other. Jim and Pauline married on August 14, 1955 in Milwaukee and began married life in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh where Pauline taught school and Jim attended seminary. A tight budget required checking sofa cushions for loose coins to attend movies and buy local deli sandwiches.

After seminary, Jim’s first call to pastor a congregation was Lisbon Presbyterian Church in Sussex Wisconsin. Daughter Beth was born in 1959. In 1964, the family moved to Madison where Jim was called to Dale Heights Presbyterian Church .

After retiring as pastor in 1973, Jim received his master’s degree in adult continuing education. He was asked to join the University of Wisconsin Extension where he became a professor and chairman of the Department of Mental Health. He travelled throughout the state and country leading seminars for people in the caring professions including nurses, clergy, police officers and others, on how to effectively handle stress and criticism in the workplace. He was author of several books including Potshots at the Preacher, Living the Bad Days, Friendship After 40 and If This Pew Could Talk. At retirement, he was honored with the position of Professor Emeritus.

At the end of Jim’s professional career, he and Pauline added the much loved Sparks Antiques business to their life. They spent several decades travelling to England and Scotland looking for unusual and quirky inventory that they sold at numerous antiques shows, shops and until earlier this year at Odana Antique Mall in Madison. Jim was amused that once while attending a local estate sale, he saw a copy of one of his books for sale for $1.00 !!

Jim was a man of many hobbies over his lifetime, numbering more than 20. These included raising bees and winning first prize at the Wisconsin State Fair for his honey, tying trout flies and making wine in the parsonage basement.

Jim is survived by his wife Pauline, daughter Beth Kucera, son-in-law Dan Kucera, brother Frank Sparks and nieces and nephew Brenda Fisher, Sharon Sparks and Brad Sparks.

A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at 11:00am Saturday, January 18 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 S. Segoe Road, Madison WI 53705 Visitation will be from 10am-11am at the church and at lunch following the service. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Covenant Presbyterian Church in support of the Jim and Pauline Sparks Continuing Education Fund.