Grandparents of the year

National Grandparents Day is a national holiday celebrating grandparents and their relationships with their grandchildren. The holiday was initiated by West Virginians, Joseph and Marian McQuade, whose lives were blessed with 15 children, and 43 grandchildren! In 1979, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor
Day as National Grandparents Day. President Carter chose September to symbolize the “autumn” years of life.


There are three purposes for National Grandparents Day:

  1. to honor grandparents,

  2. to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and

  3. to help children become aware and appreciate the strength, wisdom, and guidance grandparents provide.

 

National Grandparents Day has evolved from the McQuade’s early vision of small gatherings to encompass so much more! This special day gives us a chance to publicly affirm the identity and importance of grandparents and recognize the vital role they play in the family unit. It is a day of giving – giving of self; sharing hopes, dreams, and
values; and setting an example for future generations.

2019 Grandparents of the Year
Don and Gwyndolyn Sparks
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Don and Gwyndolyn met the summer between Gwyn’s freshman and sophomore years of college on a double-date to play bridge.  Gwyn’s date was a friend from high school and Don’s date was a friend as well.  The following week, Don found himself in need of a bridge partner to play with his mom and dad.  Naturally, he thought of Gwyn.  Their first date was playing bridge with Don’s folks, whom Gwyn immediately loved. From that time forward, they were an item.

The following Easter brought wedding bells for Don and Gwyn.  Shortly thereafter, Don finished his last year at the University of Texas in Austin and graduated with a degree in Engineering.  Gwyn worked and before long, they welcomed their first baby, Jeff.  Don’s graduation brought a huge relief and was the first of many great adventures. 

In 1962, Don started his new career as a Petroleum Engineer for Shell Oil Company in Odessa.  Their next move came when he received orders to report to Naval Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island.  Not willing to be separated for four months, Gwyn and Jeff followed along on blind faith, believing they would manage some way. 

Gwyn worked babysitting and housekeeping, taking Jeff with her to each job.  Within four months, Don received his first duty station assignment in San Diego.  During the next year, they would live in San Diego, California, Bremerton, Washington, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.  In Virginia, Don and Gwyn were blessed with their second son, Kevin, who was born at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in 1964. 

Don was honorably discharged in December 1965.  The family moved to Midland to start their new life with Don returning as an Engineer for Shell Oil Company, where he worked until 1968.  In 1967, the family welcomed their third son, Todd.  Meanwhile, Gwyn, an accomplished pianist, worked as a piano teacher to help supplement the family income.  Don continued to excel in his career as a petroleum engineer; achieving his life’s goal of co-founding his own company, Discovery Operating, Inc., where he presently serves as Chairman of the Board. 

Don and Gwyn have been avid supporters of the Midland community throughout their lives.  Don has participated and held office with the: Society of Petroleum Engineers, Permian Basin Petroleum Association, and the Independent Petroleum Association of America.  Don has also been a longtime member of the Texas Independent Producer and Royalty Owners Association and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.  To this day, Don maintains his membership with the Sunray Texas Farmers Co-Op, where the Sparks family membership dates back over 45 years!

During her early years in Midland, Gwyn was active in the PTA and a board member of Midland Senior Services, which later became Meals-on-Wheels.  Gwyn continued her support of the Midland community through her volunteer service with High Sky Children’s Ranch, where she was a member of the Board of Directors for six years (1984-1990).  At the end of her sixth year, Gwyn passed the volunteer torch to her son, which began a family tradition.  Gwyn currently serves on the Board of Governors for both High Sky Children’s Ranch and Midland Memorial Hospital. 

Together, Don and Gwyn are actively involved with Manor Park, Young Life, and for 35 years, have been loyal parishioners of First Baptist Church in Midland.  The dynamic duo has been, and continues to be, active in local, state and national political campaigns.  They both enjoy traveling and have taken many wonderful trips through the years.  They have almost completed their bucket list of places to visit and are repeating some of their favorites!

Married for 58 wonderful years, Don and Gwyn have witnessed their family grow substantially.  All three of their sons are married (Jeff and Val, Kevin and Jill, and Todd and Karen) and have supplied them with a nest full of grand and great grandchildren:

Jeff’s children: Jarrod and wife, Kimberly, and great-grandsons Weston, Wyatt and Warren; Joshua and wife, Cori, and great-granddaughter Evelyn and one on the way; Justin and wife, Noralisa; and daughter Kristina.

Kevin’s children: Grey and wife, Alex; Sumner and husband, Hayden; Garrett, a Senior at Arkansas University; and Grant, a Senior at Midland Classical.

Todd’s children: Will, a Junior at Texas A&M; Laura Kate, a Freshman at Texas A&M; and Libby,  a Freshman at Midland Classical.

The Sparks are enjoying their grandchildren immensely and love the hustle and bustle of attending their activities.  They have followed their sports teams at Lee High School, Midland High School band, and most recently, the sporting events at Midland Classical, each of which have resulted in fond memories treasured by the proud grandparents. 

Don and Gwyn Sparks embody the spirit of philanthropy.  Through their actions, we bear witness to what commitment to living in truth, having faith in God, perseverance, and having respect for country, state, and community produces.  They are true humanitarians who continue to make a difference in our world.