Cazenovia remembers firefighter, school bus driver, friend

Cazenovia was shaken Wednesday Oct. 6 by the loss of an important pillar of the community.

Ralph K. Sparks passed away at University Hospital after suffering a medical emergency while driving his school bus. A graduate of Cazenovia High School in 1968, Ralph had many friends around town. The 61- year-old was dearly loved, and is fondly remembered. At calling hours Sunday Oct. 10 at Tait Funeral Home, Cazenovians of all ages patiently waited in a two-hour line to pay their respects to Ralph's life and the legacy he left behind.

Ralph was a charter member of Cazenovia Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps and a member of the Cazenovia Fire Department's Hook and Ladder Company. He was a former captain of the Rescue Team, and was instrumental in the creation of the SCUBA Dive Team. Having served in Vietnam, Ralph was a member of American Legion Post #88. A bus driver for the Cazenovia Central School District, he delivered and dropped off students for 18 years.

Ralph was also an avid outdoorsman; he liked kayaking in the summer and snowmobiling during the winter season. He enjoyed these activities with the company of his family, his loving wife and his children.

The son of Ken and Barbara Sparks, Ralph was the oldest of four boys. He is survived by his parents and brothers, as well as his sons Doug and Jason, and his wife of 33 years, Elise. Ralph's strong commitment to service is shared by his family as well; his sons are current members of the Hook and Ladder Company and Elise was a teacher for the Cazenovia Central School district for many years and served as union president.

Elise said Ralph was "a great father, and a wonderful husband who always put others before himself."

"He liked to help, and he loved his work. I think if he could have been a professional fireman, he would have," she said.

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