Apex Funeral Home

Due to the widespread devastation and impacts of COVID-19, the Sparrow family wants to be responsible in ensuring the safety and welfare of others. Therefore, there will not be a public celebration o...

Julian Raymond "Ray" Sparrow

April 29, 1933July 25, 2020

I decided to enter this world on April 29, 1933, in Norfolk, Virginia, on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up in Norfolk where my Dad was a roofer, and by today’s standards, we were considered poor. But all of our friends and family were in the same predicament, so we didn’t know we were poor and we were happy. Growing up on the water, I spent many hours crabbing, fishing and swimming in the Bay. Every kid who grew up by the Chesapeake Bay learned to swim before the fish did!

I grew up during World War II and the Norfolk Naval Base had the largest fleet of ships in the world. To make money when I was in high school, I used to catch street cars to the Naval Base to sell newspapers and magazines to sailors on all the ships in the Atlantic Fleet. Sometimes I was invited to eat on board the ships and watched movies at night with the sailors. Not many young men had this opportunity.

I attended the Norfolk School System until my senior year in high school. I played many sports. I was on the swim team, Golden Gloves boxing team, baseball team and football team. In my senior year, my mother, along with my two sisters, Molly and Delores, moved to Durham, North Carolina to live because that’s where my mother’s family was located. I finished high school at Durham High School in 1951. I played baseball in the old Durham Bulls Athletic Park. And our football team won the North Carolina State High School Football Championship that year. We were ranked as the number one high school team in the nation. We went on to defeat Miami High School from Miami, Florida in the Orange Bowl. My sister Dee and I were on a dance team while in high school. We danced at the North Carolina State Fair, and in various towns around North Carolina.

Right out of high school, I did not have the money to go to college so I took a job with a local construction company in Durham. After working for them for two years, I became their General Superintendent. We were building some projects in Raleigh for a local architect and he asked me to come work for him. I had taken drafting in high school, which was a great advantage. A year later I sold my car and worked at night so I could enter the North Carolina State University School of Design.

In the meantime, I met and married my first wife Marlene. She was a thoughtful, caring and generous person, and the best mother in the world. We had three children together: a son and two daughters. They all attained college degrees. I must give Marlene most of the credit for raising our children to become kindhearted, independent, and successful adults.

I worked for several more years in Raleigh with various architects and engineers. In 1969 I decided to start my own construction company. During my lifetime, we built thousands of homes and buildings, many of which I designed myself. I always enjoyed designing and building new projects. I can’t take all the credit for the company’s success as I had two people who worked alongside me, my second wife Melba Truelove Sparrow and by partner William (Bill) Jones. They were smart, efficient and honest, and I could not have done it without them.

I have been involved in may outside activities: politics, Jaycees, NC Home Builders Association, National Guard, Little League coaching, YMCA and other civic and social organizations. I served in the NC National Guard for 23 years, many of them as Company Commander, and enjoyed helping the young men under my command.

My second wife Melba, was a beautiful person both inside and out. She had many friends and was involved in many civic and business activities. We were married on June 16, 1973, and had 43 wonderful years together.

My son, Ray, Jr., passed away on June 18, 2015. He was 58 years old. One year later on June 18, 2016, the exact date Ray, Jr. passed, my wife Melba passed away. Grief has taught me that the loss of a loved one is sadder than separation, and longer than the permanence of death. Not a day goes by that I don’t shed a tear or two when I think of Ray, Jr. and Melba.

One of the most important parts of my life, and the one of which I am most proud, are my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As I previously mentioned, my son Julian Raymond Sparrow, Jr. passed away. He married my daughter-in-law, Mary Ireland Sparrow who still resides in Oakton, Virginia. They have two sons and two daughters: Raymond Michael Sparrow, Kerry Melissa Sparrow, Christine Elise Sparrow and William Nathanial Sparrow. My grandson Raymond is married to Lara Ebert Sparrow and have given me two beautiful great-grandchildren, Caroline Elizabeth Sparrow and Grant Raymond Sparrow. My daughter Michele Renee Sparrow, lives in Maineville, Ohio. My daughter, Melanie Rhea Sparrow Bills, lives in Lebanon, Ohio with her husband Tom Bills. She has two sons, Thomas Lee Bills and Stuart Franklin Bills.

Melba’s side of the family has been so great to me. Her sister Shirley Drake and all of Shirley’s family try to look after me. They live in this area. Shirley calls me every day and I know I can always count on her and her family if I need anything.

I have lived in Cary, North Carolina over 60 years, and it is a wonderful place to live. I have enjoyed a full, happy life here mainly because of the numerous great friends I have made over my lifetime. I know my golfing and card playing buddies will miss taking my money! But seriously, I have cherished each and every person who has been a part of and supported me during my life’s journey. Thank you for being there when I needed you, and when I didn’t.

Memorials may be made to any of the following: ​YMCA of the Triangle, 801 Corporate Drive, Suite 200, Raleigh, NC 27607; First United Methodist Church, 117 S. Academy Street, Cary, NC 27511; ​or Transitions Life Care, 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607.


  • YMCA of the Triangle
  • First United Methodist Church
  • Transitions Life Care


  • A private family inurnment will be held at a later date


Julian Raymond "Ray" Sparrow

have a memory or condolence to add?

Marion Rhew

August 8, 2020

I knew Ray in Durham. We were in the Nation Guard together. I worked for Ray as his AST(that stands for Administrative Supply Technician) in other words keeping up all the military records. He was a good commander.

Bill Holman

August 3, 2020

I had the privilege of working with Ray when he served in the NC House of Representatives. I represented environmental organizations; he was a builder & developer. Ray cared deeply about improving his community. He was sensible and effective. We're thinking about him and his family.

Ronald Varol

July 28, 2020

Sparrow Family, I am so sorry for your loss. I know Ray was the Patriarch of your family whom you all loved and will miss him as I will. Lets remember his kindness and laughter that he brought to so many family and friends over the years. Of course , we all loved his story telling, he was the master. I will miss him showing up at my house or me going to his house to help solve the many technology problem he has with is iPad and iPhone, always a challenge for Ray. But most of all I will miss him as a friend , he was like a brother to me. It is my prayer that God will hold him close in perfect peace forever.

Tommy Hunt

July 28, 2020

I first met Ray when we played Football together at Durham High School . Ray was very good and of course I played behind him
Ray has worked tirelessly on the Historical Plaque we are putting in front of the Durham High School . He has done it all , I have never met a more generous person with his time and finances. Ray was loved by all our Durham High Forever members. I will never forget him and his faithful friendship . Ray we all love you .

Jim Campbell

July 28, 2020

Ray hired me in 1973. After Melba and Bill Jones I was the next person he hired to work in the office.
I had little or no experience, but he said he would take a chance on me. It turned out to be the best
thing that ever happened to me in my business life.
Next to my Mother and Father, Ray had the most positive effect on my life of anyone I ever knew.
I was fortunate to have known him, and even more fortunate to have worked for him
When you work for someone for six years you find out what they are really like. Ray Sparrow was the epitome of
a Gentleman, an honest man, and was a pleasure to work for. I look back on those days with fond memories.
He will always have a special place in my memory and in my heart.
My life is better because of Ray Sparrow.

Jim Campbell
Beaufort, SC

Joi Tannert

July 27, 2020

I spent many years working with Ray and Melba and their clients as their interior designer. We always enjoyed collaborating, especially on Parade of Homes and Street of Dreams houses to showcase their construction quality. They always wanted to treat people right. Ray and Melba were very special clients whom I could call friends. They will always have a place in my heart.

William Wade, Jr

July 27, 2020

Ray is remembered as kind, even tempered gentleman of integrity in his business and personal relations dealing with construction and land matters. His honesty was always reflected by those around him, and is remembered by those loved ones left on Earth. May God bless and comfort all his family.

Jeff Fike

July 27, 2020

I knew Ray through the Home Builders Association and would occasionally see him around Town in Cary or perhaps on a Sunday afternoon (donating money) playing cards with his buddies at MacGregor. I will miss him at the annual Past President Luncheon @ the HBA . I can't say that really I knew him that well, but always felt that if you met Ray you knew him, because he was such a genuine person. I have much respect for him and the life he led.
God Bless and rest in peace Ray.
Jeff Fike


July 27, 2020

Worked with Mr Ray a year ago on a house he designed but the builder make so many structural changes he had to re-engineer the plans. I was the building inspector for that job. Once he remembered me from Cary he brought 2 signed books that he had written about Cary and the 70s democratic part. You need to read them a true Caryite and he will be missed.

Glen Grimme

July 27, 2020

We first met Ray in 1994 when we decided to build a home in Cary's Regency neighborhood. Ray was a gentleman throughout the process and we established a great relationship. Our home's quality was a testimony to Ray's construction standards.

He also encouraged me to get involved at the Cary YMCA which I have supported since that time.

RIP and God bless, Ray and Melba.