The biggest news of the recent days was the death of Clayton W. Sparks, a longtime operator on KYN and other modes for many years. We often joked that he had the perfect name for a CW operator, C.W. Sparks, and he was often called just “Sparks” on the air.
Sparks was a U.S. Army Veteran of the Korean war, and he said he operated mostly RTTY messages to and from stateside and around the country of Korea. This conflict is often called the “Forgotten War’” and the US was totally unprepared because of the downgrading of the military after the giant effort of WWII. (IMHO, it shows the danger of downgrading the military, as is now going on.) He sent a couple of photos showing the communications trailer he work from while in Korea.
I remember Sparks’ activity during the terrible Eastern KY Floods of 1977. His home was completely under water. Hazard had the only repeater that covered the Harlan Co. area at that time, and Sparks sat in his car and took traffic from outside the region even while his home was under water. He lost about everything he had, and the only photos he had left of past ham activities were the couple from Korea.
But that was the kind of guy Sparks was. You could count on him every time. He worked for a community cable TV company that provides service to the Evarts and surrounding community and he mentioned that the only time he had missed work was because of an accident. He climbed poles and was responsible for the whole operation for a long time. He was also on the board of directors of the Community-based company. We gave exams a couple of times at his office/company shop in Evarts, and he was very proud of the company and his work, and the fact that it provided its service to the community at the lowest possible cost. I was amazed at what they provided for the cost, especially compared what I was getting on cable at the time.
Likewise, Sparks probably held the record for consecutive NCS appearances on KYN. It was many years, actually. Another experience I remember with Sparks was one Field Day on Pine Mountain, under a picnic shelter, one rainy weekend. Rainy doesn’t describe the way the water was coming down, and it turned out that the Shelter had bullet holes shot into the roof and the plastic tarp over the top of it didn’t do much of a job keeping out the water for some reason. Despite the best efforts, some of the equipment got thoroughly soaked.
When the rain stopped, Sparks just took his Ten-Tec Omni D, poured the water out of it, turned it on and continued operating. That event is sort of a legend in this part of the state, as is Sparks, and one reason I like Ten-Tec gear. I got one of these old Omni’s a while back and it works well. Sparks’ other hobbies were wood-carving, and I used to see him at the Christmas Craft Festival that was held in Harlan, and 4-wheeling. The miles and miles of strip mining shelves in the area have made it a bit of a Mecca for 4-wheeling with All Terrain Vehicles. (Not to mention homes for Bears)
Sparks will be greatly missed on the net, in his community and most of all by his family. Eddie, his son, KI4DAQ, has kept us updated, and we appreciate that. Keep the family in your prayers.
John Farler K4AVX