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Pauline Lenore Sparks, age 90, of Madison, died on August 26, 2022 at Ingleside Manor in Mount Horeb, WI.
She was born on February 27, 1932 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the daughter of Kenneth Zahrte and Lenore Zahrte (nee Worm).
Pauline grew up in Wauwatosa and was a girl who loved learning and enjoyed her friends. She enjoyed listening to Packers games with her dad, and in high school was a lifeguard and helped in the livestock show ring at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Pauline was a cum laude graduate of Beloit University where she was a member of Mortar Board and Pi Beta Phi sorority. She met her beloved husband of 64 years, Jim, while both attended Washington Semester at American University in Washington DC. Their first date lasted 12 hours as they walked from one side of the city to the other. Pauline and Jim were married on August 13, 1955 and moved to Pittsburgh where she taught junior high history and Jim went to seminary.
Jim’s pastorates took them to Sussex, Wisconsin and later Madison where they spent the remainder of their married life. They welcomed their only child Beth in April 1959.
Pauline and Jim decided early on that rearing their daughter and making a good home was going to be Pauline’s career. This choice allowed her to jump feet first in supporting Jim’s ministry and later University of WI professor career and Beth’s upbringing. Of particular mention –when Pauline volunteered one year to be Madison’s Girl Scout cookie chairman. It came as a bit of a surprise when thousands of boxes of cookies were delivered to the house and filled the parsonage garage for two weeks!
Pauline and Jim loved to entertain people for dinner in their home and later added “going out for fish” as a weekly treat with friends.
Pauline’s interests were many. A lifelong voracious reader, she gobbled up books –historical biographies, American history and British detective writers were favorites.
Pauline and Jim enjoyed British import television when it was just starting in the US. The Avengers, Alec Guiness movies and Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple to name a few..
Pauline was an accomplished knitter. She made gorgeous sweaters, vests and outdoor gear for decades. Beth remembers her knitting most evenings , often while watching Julia Child on TV. That was until she put Beth to bed and read to her for ½ hour. Hail Winnie-the Pooh and vichyssoise!!
Pauline could best be remembered for her ability to befriend people she met and had a genuine interest in who they were and their lives. Jim used to kid her, maybe somewhat enviously, that within ten minutes of meeting someone, Pauline would know where the person went to high school!.
Pauline experienced increasing health challenges these last 15 years—but she marched through her increasing immobility with grace and acceptance. She moved to Ingleside manor almost four years ago and when Jim died in December 2019, she declared this was going to be her “second life.” She chose to engage her caregivers as friends and often spoke to Beth about the variety of ages and lives—relishing in her new friends.
Pauline’s physical world at Ingleside was small, but her room was a conversation starter, filled to the rafters with art and decorative objects and mementos. She called it her London bedsit! She loved being surrounded by treasures, many acquired when she and Jim traveled for their business of 30 years, Sparks Antiques.
Pauline and Beth talked everyday via the Alexa speaker and relished visits every two weeks. Pauline remained mentally sharp, listening to audible books and enjoying in person visits with special friends. She started each morning conversation with Beth “is this my charming daughter?” and signed off each call “bye bye sweetheart.”
Pauline told Beth on their last in person visit “I dreamt about your Dad last night and he said—get up Pauline and let’s go out for fish.” That will make Beth smile forever.
Pauline is survived by daughter Beth and son-in-law Dan Kucera and three nieces and nephews. Pauline will be interred at the columbarium at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison.
Beth wishes to expressly thank the amazing, loving caregivers and friends at Ingleside Manor. They know how to treat their residents with dignity, competence and love. The Agrace Hospice team was nothing short of angels on earth.
A celebration of Pauline’s life will be planned for later this autumn. Memorial contributions can be made to the Jim and Pauline Continuing Education Fund at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 S. Segoe Road Madison WI 53705, or in Pauline’s name to the Activities Department at Ingleside Communities 407 N. 8 th St. Mount Horeb WI 53572 or Agrace Foundation, 5395 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison WI 53711
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