Riley Funeral Home


Charles Ray Sparks

3 October, 193524 October, 2020

Charles Ray Sparks, Sr. “Ray” Charles Ray Sparks, Sr., 85, died of complications of pancreatic cancer at Cedar Park, Texas, on October 24, 2020. Ray was born at home in Hamilton County on October 3, 1935, while his parents, Nora Aleen (Sneed) Sparks and Edgar Cecil Sparks, Sr. lived on the Sparks family ranch five miles north of Hamilton near Highway 281. He was always a curious child. He learned to hunt at an early age and would spend hours carrying his trusty .22 rifle around the ranch, all while scouting for small game. When it came time to start elementary school, he rode a home-made “school bus” from the ranch to the old East Ward Elementary School, located where the Hamilton General Hospital sits today. The “bus” was referred to as “The Chicken Coop” by the students because it consisted of a flat-bed truck with a shed constructed on top, containing a couple of benches for seats, and with only one door, which was closed with a screen door latch. He attended East Ward through the sixth grade, before moving to the Ann Whitney campus and Junior High School. Ray was too skinny as a kid to play football, so he started playing tennis at an early age with his father and older brother. He teamed up with a fellow student, and they won the district doubles tournament in Ray’s freshman year in high school. Anybody who ever tried to return one of his serves, learned to just stand back and watch the ball go whizzing by at warp speed while still waiting for the start of his serve. During his years at Hamilton High School, Ray also sang the lead part in a male quartet, referred to locally as “The Jordanaires” because Mom and Pop Jordan (of Jordan Pharmacy) were their sponsors and helped to train them. The quartet performed at all sorts of social gatherings and over radio station KCLW. They even raised $120 for their senior class during one performance. During the summer of 1954, Ray met and began dating Letha Louise Jones, when Ray was the song leader for a revival being conducted at Calvary Baptist Mission, and Letha was the pianist for the services. They became a musical team: Ray singing baritone solos, and Letha accompanying him on the piano. They provided the special music for many local churches during this period and for years afterward. After graduating from Hamilton High School in 1954, Ray attended Tarleton State College, graduating with an Associate’s Degree in 1956. While a student at Tarleton, he was in ROTC, attaining the rank of Captain as the Commanding Officer of Company B of the ROTC Cadet Corps before he graduated. He was a member of the Tarleton ROTC Rifle Team and participated in many matches, including those with participants from other college ROTC programs. He was frequently the high scorer in these matches. Music was also one of his passions. He was awarded a music scholarship covering his tuition in his second year and was a baritone soloist in the Tarleton Choir. In October 1955 he was hired as the music director for The First Presbyterian Church of Stephenville, where he led the Sunday music for the church, and Letha often played the piano for his solos and church services. After graduating from Tarleton in May 1956, Ray married Letha at the First Baptist Church in Hamilton at the conclusion of a summer revival in which Ray was the song leader and Letha was the pianist. They soon moved to Austin, Texas, where Ray continued his education at The University of Texas at Austin, attaining a BBA degree with a major in accounting and later becoming a Texas Certified Public Accountant. While Ray and Letha lived in Austin, they had three children: Charles Jr., Linda, and Stephen. Ray, Letha and the children were members of the First Baptist Church of Austin and were active in the music program. Ray was a member of the cast and a soloist for First Baptist’s staged production of “Noye’s Fludde” and for other special choral presentations. He was ordained a deacon in the church in 1971 and served on many committees, including the Finance Committee, Budget Preparation Committee and the committee that evaluated which organ to purchase for the church when it moved to its new location on Trinity Street in downtown Austin. While in school at UT, Ray began working as a bookkeeper for a local Austin company, Polar Ice Cream (later to become Polarmatic Corporation), owned by Taylor Glass, a former mayor of Austin. He advanced to the level of Executive Vice President of Polarmatic Corporation, a company that engineered and built machinery for ice cream novelty manufacturers. Ray continued working with Mr. Glass for over 14 years as they both worked to develop the Polarmatic ice cream novelty machine and to market and sell the machine to national and international ice cream manufacturers. When the world premiere of “Batman: The Movie” was held at the Paramount Theatre in Austin in July 1966, Polar Ice Cream (using the Polarmatic machine) provided the individual ice cream desserts for a pre-event dinner held at the Sheraton Hotel (then at Congress and First Street). The dessert consisted of a slice of ice cream, circular in size that had a blue bat sign in the middle of each slice. The dinner and premiere were attended by Adam West (as Batman), Lee Meriwether (as Catwoman), Burgess Meredith (as the Penguin) and Caesar Romero (as the Joker) and other Austin notables. Ray and Letha attended as representatives of Polar Ice Cream. They met the stars of the movie and got their autographs on a program that they still have today. News reports estimate that 30,000 people filled Congress Avenue (renamed Batman Boulevard) to get a glimpse of the stars, and Ray and Letha were part of the procession from the dinner event into the theater. All the while, the crowd “oohed and aahed” over the notables being led down the red carpet, including little knowns Ray and Letha. What a night! Ray became a Certified Public Accountant in Texas in 1976 and started his own CPA firm, serving mostly small to medium-sized businesses providing them with tax, management and financial accounting services. During this time, Ray became a member of the Austin Optimist Club, serving as Secretary-Treasurer in 1985-86 and as President in 1986-87. During his term as President, the Club won first place in an international competition among Optimist Clubs for its Community Activity services and awards. He was active in helping the club raise funds by selling Christmas trees at their long-time lot located at the corner of North Lamar Blvd. and San Gabriel Street. He sold his CPA firm in 1988 and moved to Philadelphia, PA, where Letha had relocated in 1987 to teach at Temple University as an Assistant Professor of Accounting in the College of Business, while she was working toward a Ph.D. in Accounting from The University of Texas at Austin. In 1993, Ray and Letha moved back to Hamilton and soon joined the First Baptist Church where they were active in the music ministry and also provided accounting services to the church. Ray served as a deacon until health issues forced his retirement. In 1995 Ray was asked by the Hamilton City Council to head up an effort to pass an economic development tax for the City of Hamilton. Ray executed a planned approach to educate the citizens about the benefits of economic development, and in mid-1996, the citizens voted by a 2 to 1 margin to approve the tax. A similar effort had failed twice before by a vote of 2 to 1. The City of Hamilton Economic Development Corporation (EDC) was established, and a citizen Board, including Ray, was appointed by the City Council. The Board members elected Ray to serve as its President and he served in this position until May 2002. The Hamilton EDC Board received a grant from the state to poll local citizens about goals the City of Hamilton should pursue. Almost 75% of the respondents agreed that facilities for parks and recreation should be future priorities. Early in his service as President of the Hamilton EDC Board, Ray was named Secretary of the Central Texas Economic Development District, which encompassed 14 adjacent counties in Central Texas. At the same time, Ray also served as a Director and Vice President of the Highway 281 Coalition, an organization which served to promote enhanced visitor experiences to the communities located adjacent to Highway 281 through Central Texas In 1999, Ray was elected Mayor of the City of Hamilton for a one-year term, to complete the term of the former mayor who had moved away and had resigned. Soon after becoming mayor, Ray created the “Hamilton Hallmark Award” to be given to citizens of Hamilton who go out of their way to make a positive imprint on visitors to Hamilton. The first awardees were six Hamilton citizens who had helped two women who had suddenly been stranded overnight in Hamilton due to car trouble. In 2000, Ray was elected to a two-year term as Mayor. He did not run for reelection in 2002. When he became Mayor in 1999, he learned that part of the Mayor’s job was to serve as Municipal Judge. That meant he had to quickly learn about misdemeanor crimes and city ordinances and how they are enforced. He attended judge school shortly after he was elected and each year that he served as Municipal Judge, until he retired in 2018. During his tenure as Mayor and President of the Economic Development Corporation, and building upon the citizens’ questionnaire responses, Ray began to explore the idea of providing additional sports venues for the young people of Hamilton. Through his efforts, and with support of state legislative representatives, a grant was obtained from the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency in Austin to help make this dream a reality. The state paid $250,000 toward the park and a 50% match (required by the grant) was funded by citizens who provided money and resources to build the park. The new Pecan Creek Park and sports facilities are the result of these efforts. In 2003, Ray was named “Citizen of the Year 2002” by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce in recognition and appreciation for his “service and dedication to the students and citizens of Hamilton.” In July 2003, Ray resigned as a member of the City of Hamilton Parks Advisory Board to become Manager of the project and to oversee the buildout of the park. He managed the project for the initial year of its inception until health issues intervened and he resigned at the end of the one-year contract term. Ray is survived by his loving wife of sixty-four years, Letha Louise (Jones) Sparks; three children and their spouses: Charles Sparks, Jr. and wife, Jane Ann, of Georgetown, TX; Linda Sparks Massia and her husband, Steve, of Peoria, AZ; and MSgt. Stephen Sparks (USAF Ret.) and his wife, Leesa, of New Braunfels; TX; eight grandchildren and their spouses: Caitlyn Sparks Pickett and husband, Mark; Dillon Sparks; Darryl Massia; Carolyn Massia Weiland and husband, Troy; Staff Sergeant Emily Massia (USMC) and her fiancee, David; Larissa Massia Seckler and husband, Daniel; Tyler Sparks, and Sr. Airman Jason Sparks (USAF); and two great grandchildren: Callum Pickett and Amelia Massia. Ray is also survived by his sister, Nancy Sparks Thompson and husband, Willie, of Hamilton and other in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews too numerous to list but all endeared to his heart. Ray’s favorite poem (written by Oscar Hammerstein)--which he tried to practice everywhere he went—reminds us: A bell is no bell ‘till you ring it, A song is no song ‘till you sing it, And love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay -- Love isn’t love ‘till you give it away.

His family is honoring his memory by acknowledging his unfailing optimism even in the face of long-term and more immediate and recent health issues, his strong sense of ethical responsibilities, and his lifetime of service to others. He loved and protected his family and worked hard to provide a sense of belonging to each person and the children who are members of his extended family. Ray was preceded in death by his parents, Nora and Edgar Sparks, Sr. of Hamilton and by his brother, Edgar C. Sparks, Jr. of Indianapolis, IN. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Ray’s honor to the City of Hamilton for “Pecan Creek Park Capital Improvements,” 200 East Main Street, Hamilton, TX 76531. There are numerous improvements which have been identified by the City that would help make the park more accessible and useful to the citizens of Hamilton. Unfortunately, the regular city budget doesn’t allow for these improvements to be made at this time. Family visitation will be at Riley Funeral Home in Hamilton, Texas on Saturday, October 31, 2020 from 2 – 4 p.m. at the Riley Funeral Home, 402 West Main Street, Hamilton, TX 76531. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 1, 2020 in the new Pecan Creek Park addition, located at the end of Francis Marion Road (east of Highway 281/North Bell Street), adjacent to Graves-Gentry Cemetery.


  • Edgar Cecil Sparks, Father (deceased)
  • Nora Aleen Sneed Sparks, Mother (deceased)
  • Letha Louise Sparks, Spouse
  • Charles Sparks Jr. (Jane Ann), Son
  • Linda Sparks Massia (Steve), Daughter
  • MSgt. Stephen Sparks (Leesa), Son
  • Caitlyn Sparks Pickett (Mark), Grandchild
  • Dillon Sparks, Grandchild
  • Darryl Massia, Grandchild
  • Carolyn Massia Weiland (Troy), Grandchild
  • Staff Sergeant Emily Massia (David Ross), Grandchild
  • Larissa Massia Seckler (Daniel), Grandchild
  • Tyler Sparks, Grandchild
  • Sr. Airman Jason Sparks, Grandchild
  • Callum Pickett, Great Grandchild
  • Amelia Massia, Great Grandchild
  • Nancy Sparks Thompson (Willie), Sister
  • Edgar C. Sparks Jr., Brother (deceased)

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  • Dillon Sparks , Active
  • Chris Harris , Active
  • Robby Parham, Active
  • Rick Parham , Active
  • SSG Emily Massia, Active
  • Klint Cummings , Active

  • City of Hamilton
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  • Visitation

    Saturday, 31 October , 2020

  • Memorial Serivce

    Sunday, 1 November , 2020

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