Bud's two-star CG flag Our dear friend of several decades, Rear Admiral Bennet "Bud" Sparks died on May 22, at his home in Windsor, California. His funeral took place on June 13, with services near the cemetery where his wife and two of his children are buried. As is fitting for a man who had spent 47 years in the service of his country, he was given full military honors in a beautiful graveside ceremony directed by the Coast Guard.
Here are some details of his life:
Admiral Bud He was born in time to join the Coast Guard Reserve for World War II. After boot camp he was sent to radio school in Atlantic City, and when he heard the top 5% would become aviation radiomen he buckled down. As an aviation electronicsman he flew missions off both coasts and across the Atlantic, both search and rescue and anti-submarine duty.
After the war he stayed in, and became a regular Coast Guardsman. He had a chance to fly in a PB1-G (B-17) mapping Alaska, and then transferred to the Coast and Geodetic Survey as a civilian to continue this work for a total of 11 years.
In 1957 his father died and he moved to California to take over the family business as a gift wholesaler. It was a family affair; his wife and six children put together the quarterly gift catalogues. He built up and eventually led the huge "Piper Bill" Tubbs Southern California Gift Show, and acquired some retail stores.
Meanwhile he continued in the Coast Guard Reserve, receiving a direct commission from Chief to Ensign and advanced all the way to Rear Admiral. By this time he was an active national and international leader of Reserve Officers in the U.S. and NATO countries. He sold his business interests, and accepted a position in Washington as Deputy Executive Director of the Reserve Officers Association.
Returning to California, Bud accepted another big assignment -- to the California Veterans' Board, where he saved the State hundreds of millions.
Bud's priest, Fr. Angelito When his beloved wife Betty came down with Alzheimer's, Bud visited her every day in the home, and served on the Board of the North Coast Alzheimer's Association.
At the last he surrounded himself with his four surviving children, choosing to spend his final days at home in their company.
For a man who had devoted his entire adult life to the Coast Guard, the part of California from Alameda to Windsor was the ideal place to hold a memorial service. The Coast Guard is a small service compared with the Army and Navy, but their loyalties are just as intense, and their traditions stretch far into the American past. The center of Coast C-130 flyover Guard activities on the west coast is on Coast Guard Island in Alameda, and the home of the commanding officer is the beautiful white house on Treasure Island in the middle of the Oakland Bay Bridge. Farther north, in Petaluma, is the Coast Guard Training Center, where Bud and Betty had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
As Bud's health declined, his Coast Guard friends -- including the Commandant, Admiral Thad Allen -- made special efforts to visit him, phone him, write him, to remind him that he was in their hearts. Somehow a network developed, and as soon as the family decided Patriot Guard motorcycles to have a military funeral, they came forward to help.
LCDR Paul Markland, from the Legal Office at the Coast Guard Training Center, Petaluma, was named the Point of Contact. He coordinated all of the Coast Guard activities, from the honor guard (whose regular duty station is Arlington Cemetery) to the cooks at the Training Center, who prepared a delicious and attractive buffet luncheon. He also managed the schedules to pinpoint timing, for the C-130 which Honor Guard holding flag left Sacramento to fly over the cemetery.
Everybody who knew Bud wanted to help. The Patriot Guard, a military motorcycle squad which attends and escorts military funerals to honor servicemen, was there in force, along with the Motorcycle Escort Team of the American Legion. The Windsor Fire Chief, Ron Collier, arranged for flags -- the American Flag, the Coast Guard Flag, and the Rear Admiral's two-star flag -- to be flown from the top of the Windsor fire engine's aerial ladder at the entrance to the cemetery. Many of the groups Motorcycle Escort Team to which Bud belonged sent representatives. The California Department of Veterans Affairs was represented by Deputy Secretary J. T. Tremblay, who presented a flag to the family. Bud's Congressional Representative, Mike Thompson, was represented at the funeral, along with a statement of Bud's service inserted into the Congressional Records, which his office had framed and presented.
As hundreds of family members and guests gathered round, LCDR Bill Tubbs, USCGR (Ret.) played the bagpipe while the Honor guard carried the urn from the hearse and unfolded the United States Flag. Bud was known for raising flags and flagpoles throughout the neighborhood, so he would have been glad. A twenty-one gun salute was fired, the bugler played taps, and one by one the family members brought a rose to lay at the grave.