December 1915 – February 2014
Former Skagway resident Peter Winfield Sparks, age 92 died at his residence in Locust Grove, VA on February 5, 2014.
Peter was born on February 19, 1921 on Bainbridge Island, Washington the son of the late Victor Leroy and Abbie (Crepeau) Sparks . His paternal grandparents, Winfield Scott Sparks and Charrie (Denny) were early Skagway residents. His maternal grandparents, Peter Medard Crepeau and Abbie (McCarthy) also resided in Skagway.
He spent his childhood in Skagway, Alaska where he graduated from Skagway High School in 1939. This was the first graduating class from the “new school”. His classmates included: Jean Elizabeth Reynoldson, Henry Charles Dulles, Marjorie B. Aden, Laurence J. Alby, Dorothy Wilmot Gardiner, Joan Mary Hannon, Robert Lee Rapuzzi, and Dorothy Wilson.
The Trailblazer, the school paper, predicts some of his future, it stated: Peter Sparks’ ambition is to sail around the world and he has already started to build his “yacht”.
Pete had a lifelong love of boats. In 1939 he built a 16’ foot sailboat using plans that his friend Stanley Smith had found in the boating magazine “Motorboat”. Building the boat in his Dad’s shop, his mother sewed the sails they had laid out on the school gym floor. He and Stanley launched the boat in May 1939, Pete stated “we caught a rare north wind and sailed to Haines, there they decided to become salmon fishermen; boat was not a good salmon fisher and they returned home not having made their fortune.
He left Skagway again in 1940 in the “Sweet Sixteen” hoping to make it to Seattle. In an article (unknown source) headline: Boys Sail South in Small Boat; “braving storm-swept Alaskan waters, in a sixteen-foot, homemade, auxiliary powered sailboat, Peter Sparks, 19 years old and Stanley Smith, 20, are enroute from their Skagway, Alaska homes to Seattle. …we hear of going north to adventure but they have turned the tables and are coming south to adventure.” They actually sailed to Ketchikan where they put the boat on a trawler that took them to Seattle where they sold the boat, bought a car, and travelled throughout the west coast.
Pete worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, starting as an apprentice boat builder; in 1944 joined the Navy where he was assigned to the USS Pintado submarine. After WW II ended he returned to Bremerton, WA where he started out as an engineering draftsman and worked his way up to becoming a Naval Architect at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. On August 31, 1946 he married Mary Hoath of Springfield, PA. They remained in Bremerton until 1962 when he was transferred to the Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C. and retired in 1979.
Pete’s lifelong love of the sea continued as he built model boats, a fully working hydroplane, and invested over 3000 hours on the tug boat “Shelley Foss” that included working anchors, motor, and fire hose.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Mary, and sister Charlotte (Sparks) Olson of Seattle, WA and is survived by five children: Dr. Sheila (Sparks) Ralph and her husband Dick of Hamilton, VA; Sue (Sparks) Hall and her husband COL (ret) Dave of Killeen, TX; JoAnn (Sparks) Hargrave-Roth and her husband Don of Locust Grove, VA; Peter A. Sparks of Locust Grove, VA and Peggy Sparks of Hamilton, VA, and one grand-daughter Raelen Hargrave of Orange, VA.
Interment will be at Arlington Cemetery at a later date.
MORE FAMILY HISTORY (not in print edition)
Victor Leroy Sparks and Abbie Agnes (Crepeau)
As early as 1903 Victor is listed in the Alaska and Yukon Gazetteer as an upholsterer for the WP&YR. He left Skagway in 1905 to attend Art School in San Francisco, he was there during the earthquake in 1906 and recounted to his son that he often had dreams about the aftermath. Teaching at the school was Will Sparks, a well-known California artist; as was Rube Goldberg—his influence can be seen in many of Vic’s cartoons. Vic was a member of the Artic Brotherhood in 1907. He published many political cartoons in “The Interloper”, a Skagway paper. He worked on the WP&YR in various capacities: railroad shop-foundry helper, helper, blacksmith helper, fireman on rotary fleet, hostler, and painter. He drew the covers of the “Trail Blazer”, the Skagway school paper published by the Aurora Borealis society for many years. He was commissioned by the WP&YR to do an oil painting for each parlor car; in a letter to Peter he says “finished Bennett Church, now in 5 cars, 2 more in shop, starting one of the Princess Louise coming in to dock, rotary made, steel bridge expect to make, 3 more to make (Sheila has photographs of 7); paintings were stolen from the round house in 1971, most were returned after publication of an article by Barbara Dedman in the Alaska magazine.
Vic was deputized in 1930 as a US Marshall by CJ Sullivan, Deputy US Marshall to help capture the “Kangaroo Kid”, an escaped convict. Sullivan, the sheriff from Haines needed Vic to use his boat, the Felix, to capture the convict who practically climbed into the boat as he was starving and knew he could not escape.
Throughout his life, Vic, “Skagway’s Sourdough Artist”, made an impression. He played the sheriff in the Days of ’98 review, Anna True said “they met all the boats, Vic dressed as the sheriff would say ‘you need to go to jail because you don’t have a beard’ He made showcards for activities ranging from the Elks to the Salmon Derby and could be counted on to do Rube Goldberg inspired cards for anyone arriving or leaving Skagway.
Abbie (Crepeau) Sparks came to Skagway in 1914; she worked as a stenographer for Philip Abrahams. After their marriage in 1918 they lived on Bainbridge Island, WA with her parents where both Charlotte and Peter were born. They returned to Skagway in 1923 after the death of Charrie Marie. She was very active in the Skagway Women’s Club and helped write Carnegie grants that purchased books for the library. She was listed in Alaska Who’s Here….in 1955.
Winfield Scott Sparks and Charrie Marie (Denny)
Winfield Sparks bought property in Skagway as early as 1898, “this indenture made between Christ Ludwig and H.W. Reinhart….according to the plat thereof made by Frank H. Reid, civil engineer, recorded this 19th day of April, signed by Christ Ludwig, witnessed by Paul L. Lovell and Lewis Garrison (original deed in possession of author). He travelled to Atlin, BC, where he worked a claim with Sam Freeman, Chas Schaeker, and P.J. Christensen. He was a property owner in Skagway most of the remainder of his life, active in the Eagles, listed in the Alaska and Yukon Gazetteer as a carpenter. In 1911 he served on the Skagway Town Council. Among his customers were Martin Conway, WP&YR-built the hose house, and his grandson, Peter Sparks said he did much of the millwork in the Pullen House. Although born in Iowa, he ran away from home when his mother died and lived with a relative in Minnesota where he met his wife, Charrie Marie (Denny), in 1879 he graduated from Oskaloosa College (IO) in bookkeeping and telegraphy. They went to Portland, OR where their sons, Victor Leroy and Wilbur Earl were born in 1884 and 1886. He hunted mountain goats and fished Long Bay in a 20’ cabin cruiser named “Agnes”. He raised award winning dahlias; their house had 3 bedrooms, an outhouse, and running water in the kitchen.
Charrie Marie (Denny) was a member of the Eastern Star (Naomi Chapter). After her death in 1923, Peter returned from Bainbridge Island, WA to Skagway with his parents, Victor Leroy Sparks and Abbie Agnes (Crepeau) to live with Winfield.
Peter Medard Crepeau and Abbie (McCarthy)
Peter Medard Crepeau was born in Minnesota, the son of French Canadian immigrants. He sailed from Seattle on the second boat that left for the Klondike in 1897. He went over the Chilkoot Pass to Bennett Lake where he built a boat and went to Dawson. He later went to Nome where the ship he was on lost its rudder and was thought lost at sea and was reported as overdue in Seattle. Several weeks later the ship arrived using a rudder the shipmates had rigged. He married Abbie Deborah McCarthy in Montana in 1888. He and his sons, Charles Edward and Louis Arthur worked for the WP&YR; his sons played baseball in Skagway and his daughter, Abbie Agnes came to Skagway in 1914. – Submitted by the family