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A heart of a Sparrow

By Tammee Greere

The Orange Leader

Wayne Ferril Sparrow, funeral director for Sparrow Funeral Home, stops to catch his breath as he chokes on emotion. He does this several times, showing the genuine compassion he has for the deceased and their families.

Sparrow explains each family is different and has different needs. His father used to tell him there is no “cookie cutter” approach to dealing with all families. Each family is unique and has different needs than another. He is more than willing to walk each family through the process of determining what their needs are and accomplishing them. He has serviced the family of a great musician and a well-known and loved West Orange-Stark football player.

The football player just had thrown a great pass then went to the sideline and passed away from a heart attack.

Sparrow said he counseled the coach and the football team to deal with the sudden and unexpected loss of this quarterback. The football players were the pallbearers, holding their helmets in their arms as they carried the coffin of the well-loved football player. They even had a Pass-the-Torch ceremony to the new quarterback representing his leadership of the football team.

In one situation, a 108-year-old woman passed. Sparrow talked about the family and how proud they were that their mother had lived well over 100 years. Their grief is totally different than a mother that just lost her newborn baby. The needs of the new mother and her family are far different as well. Again, there is no “cookie cutter” approach in dealing with the needs of each family.

Sparrow received an extreme amount of education regarding his profession from his family.

He is the third generation of Sparrow Funeral Home. Sparrow’s father died in 1981, so he took over running the funeral home. His aunt was also a licensed funeral director and educator.

There isn’t any part of his job as Funeral Director of Sparrow Funeral Home that he doesn’t like. He even enjoys the embalming. The best part of Sparrow’s job is dealing with the families.

He prepared for it as well, not by just observing and learning from his family over the years. In fact, he majored in Mass Communications at the University of Houston and minored in Business. His father had insisted he get a degree in something else before he ran the funeral home, which was started by his family in the 1920’s.

The funeral home is located in his grandmother’s house and there is an instant comforting feeling upon entering with all the pictures of his family hanging on the walls, including one of his beautiful wife, Francine.

Genuine compassion and warmth exudes from Sparrow.

It is compassion recognized and appreciated by the families he helps. One such family is the family of Elizabeth Campbell, executive director of the Jackson Community Center.

Her niece had passed away and left behind young children. He encouraged the family to bring the children to the funeral to give them closure as well. Otherwise, they would have questions about their mom and where she was. It was such caring advice, showing Sparrow is concerned not only for the deceased, but the living as well.

In fact, generations of the same families often return to Sparrow when a loved one dies. The reasons are obvious.

Sparrow is also on the board of the Jackson Community Center birthed by Campbell. He is a connection between the community center and the public. If the community center needs a specific service or particular items, Sparrow directs Campbell whom she can contact.

Campbell has said she appreciates Sparrow’s compassion and his affiliation for joking, teasing and laughter.

Other people who love Sparrow for the wonderful, kind man he is are his employees of Sparrow Funeral Home. Sarah Richard, who has worked with Sparrow for 31 years, has said Sparrow Funeral Home is not just a place to work. It is a home filled with “family” members, not just co-workers. They are a team professionally and unprofessionally. When someone in the “family” has a problem, everyone else, including Sparrow and his wife, are there to help.

Sparrow has a wealth of experience. Among them are the following: a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner, Chairman of the Board two times for the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, and President of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association.

Sparrow is currently on the board for the Jackson Community Center, assisting Campbell with the children and community of Orange.

He’s Board of Director for the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association and on the Advisory Board for Lamar Orange, where they discuss the curriculum of the local campus to fit the needs of the students and the community.

Sparrow also plays an important role with the youth in his church, St. Therese Catholic Church. He helps the youth memorize scripture in which they will recite at mass. Helping them memorize the scripture also instills confidence in the youth to do so.

Sparrow’s heart overflows with the needs of the children of Orange.

“Children are our future,” Sparrow said.

He believes if you help the children and their families, it will decrease other things in the community, such as crime.

Sparrow is also a co-sponsor of the Zeta Amica Kate Sparrow Scholarship Fund awarded to high school seniors each year.

Sparrow with his wife, Francine, and the staff of Sparrow Funeral Home host and serve breakfast to high school seniors each year to any senior wanting to come. This event is usually held toward the end of May of each year.

One of Sparrow’s most heart-warming memories is that of his involvement for better of 20 years with Jerry Lewis’ Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. All proceeds raised in the Golden Triangle stayed here.

Sparrow and his wife host an annual event on December 14 of every year called the “Holiday Service of Remembrance”.

It’s a tradition with the Sparrows and going on the 25th year this coming December.

Francine Sparrow organizes and plans the service in honor of all the families that lost loved ones during the year. It’s a service designed to assist the families in dealing with their first Christmas without their loved one that had passed.

A different church hosts the service each year.

Each family is asked to bring an ornament and hang it on the tree in front of the sanctuary representing their deceased loved one. As each family takes a turn placing their ornament on the Christmas tree, a Power Point presentation, loving put together by Sparrow, plays overhead containing the pictures of each family’s loved one.

Each family also receives a gift of an angel. There is also a meal and a cake provided for all the families.

This is a very special day of remembrance for Francine as well as December 14 is the anniversary her father passing away. The service is a way of honoring the memory of her father by the couple ease the sadness of families on their first Christmas without their loved ones.

“Any family is invited to participate in the service regardless of whether they used the services of Sparrow Funeral Home or the services of another funeral home,” Wayne Sparrow said showing the true heart of Christmas and genuine compassion.

Sparrow chooses which things take up his days carefully and is always led by his heart. He believes anything a person is involved in should come from their heart and should also be dictated by asking the question if it is something they have knowledge of and/or can contribute to?

Sparrow says it’s important to him to give back to the community.

“Nothing you have you got by yourself,” Sparrow said. “Someone had to teach you, show you, because you couldn’t do it by yourself”

The Sparrows are proud parents of one son, Justin Sparrow, who was the Salutatorian of his high school class. Sparrow and his wife are not yet grandparents, however, he has Godchildren from the ages of five years old to adult.

When asked what advice he would give to parents struggling with jobs, children and responsibilities at home, he said, “Do the best you can do and let God do the rest.”

He also made a suggestion that implore other adults in the family to help when they need it; such as Godparents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.

When Sparrow has time for some relaxation, he enjoys spending time with his wife in the quiet country atmosphere of the family homestead in Bellville, Texas. He also enjoys spending time with his great nieces and nephews and multiple godchildren. Sometimes he’ll cook something special, experimenting with his new pressure cooker.

When asked if he ever got his feet wet in the garden on 5th Street, he just laughed and said that’s not part of his contribution, but he might try to grow a plant.

However, getting dirty isn’t the thing that people notice or care about when it comes to Sparrow. It’s his genuine compassion, patience, love and generosity that stand out more than dirt on a T-shirt or muddy shoes. What does the heart of a sparrow look like? Surely, it looks like this.