Tributes paid to Star’s thoughtful vicar following his death

The Rev Don Sparkes at his home in Ladybower
The Rev Don Sparkes at his home in Ladybower

The Reverend Don Sparkes, the author of the Star’s Thought of the Day segment for over 40 years, has died.

The former Pitsmoor vicar, whose daily doses of spiritual wisdom brought joy and comfort to thousands of readers, passed away on Thursday.

Originally from East London, Rev Sparkes moved to Oxford as a seven-year-old wartime evacuee.

After studying in an open air school, and gaining degrees in Theology and Teaching via correspondence course, he decided to join the clergy.

He moved to Sheffield in 1963, and spent 33 years in Pitsmoor, working as the vicar of Holy Trinity Church and later Christ Church.

He and first wife Sheila had four children, and Sheila was instrumental in helping to run his parish until her death in 1990.

Rev Sparkes remarried in 1992, after meeting Iris, a now-retired headteacher of Clifford School, on a blind date.

After leaving the clergy in 1996, he and Iris spent a happy retirement together in Ladybower.

Iris said: “When we announced that we were getting married, I remember a friend said ‘That’s wonderful. He’s the kindest man I know.’ and I think that’s true.

“He was a man who lived by faith, and such a humble and lovely person.

“He cared so much about the people of Pitsmoor. He was offered so many promotions, but he turned them all down because he wanted to stay here and help people.”

Rev Sparkes became involved in Sheffield’s newspapers in 1970, after a friend who worked for the Star invited him to contribute a short Thought of the Day for the Sheffield Telegraph.

When the Telegraph became a weekly publication, his friend suggested that the daily feature should move to the Star instead.

Over 45 years, Rev Sparkes contributed over 13,500 poignant thoughts to the Letters Page.

Speaking to the Star in 2013, he said: “We have heard from people who have been very much helped by some of the thoughts I have written for the paper, people who have been really down and they have been picked up by what they have read.”

Rev Sparkes had a full and varied life - alongside his church and his writing, he served a time on Sheffield City Council, ran recycling campaigns, led religious services in schools, ran the local children’s choir and was instrumental in the campaign to open Pye Bank Primary School in the early 1970s.

Iris said: “They wanted to bus all the children in Pitsmoor to schools outside of the area, but Don was determined that there should be a school in Pitsmoor.

“He started campaigning, and they eventually found the site where they thought the school should be. Everyday Don would go and pray around the site.

“Folks must have thought he was nutty! But that’s the kind of man he was - once he put his mind to something he would do it.”

The Star’s deputy editor Rob Hollingworth said: “We’d like to extend our sympathies to Mrs Sparkes and Don’s family. Don has been a loyal and valued correspondent for the Star and his contributions have been valued by thousands of readers.”

Rev Sparkes is survived by Iris, four children, seven grandchildren and his step children.