Gerald D. Sparling, known as Jerry in Winthrop and Seattle, died at home on Monday, Nov. 9. He was 87 years old. He had been in declining health for some months but nevertheless surprised family and friends with an unannounced departure. Mr. Sparling, a Methow Valley resident of long standing, was known here for his cultural and community connections, and his liberal opinions, intellectual curiosity, and generous spirit.
Jerry Sparling was born in March 3, 1928, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was the son of Eugene McKinley Sparling, an osteopathic physician, and Floy Joslyn Sparling, active in community affairs. As a boy, Jerry was involved in the Boy Scouts and taught swimming and lifeguarding at summer camps. At age 10 he was shooting squirrels and opossums in the woods, by 14 he was driving and fixing the family Model A Ford. He attended Hot Springs High School, and graduated the University of Missouri in 1950 where he developed an enduring interest in ideas and a deep faith in scientific method. Jerry entered the University of Arkansas Medical School, graduating in 1954.
In the spring of 1950, Jerry Sparling and Virginia Mae Vaught married in Hot Springs. He and Virginia were together for 62 years. They had two sons, Jerry Jr. and Allen Eugene, who survive him. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Isaac, Nina and Joslyn Sparling, brother Gene, and sister Joslyn.
In fall 1954, Jerry joined the U.S. Air Force and traveled with his family to Germany for a two-year tour abroad. While in Europe, Jerry and Virginia traveled widely. A new Finnish friend, Herb Wayrynen, from Longview, suggested they visit Washington state after discharge. They liked it so much they settled in Seattle. Years later, in 1970, Jerry and Virginia visited the Methow Valley, eventually acquiring property on Wolf Creek Road.
Jerry entered radiological training at Virginia Mason Hospital in 1958, and in 1961 was hired by Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound as the second staff radiologist. He was always proud of working for an organization providing first-class medical care to all members regardless of class position. During his Group Health career, he led the expansion of radiological services to outlying sites in the Tacoma and Olympia. For a decade beginning in the mid-70s, Jerry led a visionary project to develop a computer medical record that prefigured systems commonplace in medical practice today. He retired from Group Health in 1996, and came with Virginia to live in the Methow Valley full-time.
While living in Seattle, Jerry and Virginia developed a taste for the performing arts and frequently attended the Seattle Repertory Theater, the Intiman Theater, the Seattle Opera, and the ballet. On moving to the valley full-time, Jerry, a classical music lover since high school, became an early leader and supporter in the Methow Valley Music Festival, serving as board president, and many essential but less-celebrated roles. He and Virginia were supporters and enthusiastic participants in many other Methow Valley social and cultural endeavors including the Confluence Gallery and The Merc Playhouse.
Together with Virginia, an ordained Unitarian Minister, Jerry was central in establishing the Methow Valley Unitarian Fellowship, which he continued to attend through the fall.
As a younger man, Jerry was an avid skier, and served as a volunteer medical staff on the Snoqualmie Pass Ski Patrol more than 25 years. He was also a wine maker, a fine cook, and a generous host.
A memorial service will be announced in early spring.