World War II veteran Donald McSparrin continues to inspire his family and the dedicated team at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center by crediting VA with his continued health, access to COVID vaccines, and lifelong commitment to serve before oneself.
He was an “aviator” even before the birth of the Air Force.
McSparrin, a US Army Air Corps veteran, is 97 and was recently accompanied to his VA appointment by his daughter Lisa. Born in 1924, and like many who grew up during the Great Depression, he followed in his own father’s footsteps in the military after World War I.
Long before acquiring a 120-acre ranch and settling to raise his family outside of Chewelah, Washington, McSparrin enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was trained as a weather forecaster and helped plan top secret plane bombing missions in Nazi Germany and across Europe.
After the war, McSparrin enrolled in college at Chico State University in Northern California. He was a brilliant mathematician, which is probably why he bet on himself when he proposed to Roberta, a nurse he met at a local soda store.
They were married for 72 years. Beyond the military, travel and raising a family, McSparrin attended several institutions of higher learning, including Harvard University. He earned degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering.
He and Roberta were blessed with seven daughters. All are pictured in a family photo above, celebrating Don and Roberta’s 50th birthdayand wedding anniversary.
His daughter Susan is a retired registered nurse who has cared for her father since Roberta passed away just two years ago. “I have the privilege of caring for Dad, along with the loving help of all my sisters and the wonderful help, care and service of the Coeur d’Alene Senior Center, the American Legion and VA” , she said.
His daughter Rachel distinctly remembers a special time when she was a little girl and her father worked at one of the nuclear power plants that helped end World War II. President John F. Kennedy toured the Hanford Nuclear Complex, honoring Kaiser Engineering and its employees, including McSparrin.
More than 50 years later, his daughter Lisa accompanied her father to his recent appointment at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane. Beaming with pride, Lisa couldn’t help but “have a blast” with her dad. They shared stories of his days as a young boy, stealing watermelons or popping his tonsils out without any anesthesia.
“My dad is a badass,” she smiles. She explained that he loved billiards and was a regular at the famous “Don’s Pool Hall” near Post Falls, Idaho.
McSparrin served his fellow veterans as secretary of his local American Legion post. He also volunteered for the rifle squad and honor guard at burial ceremonies. “That’s how we were taught to serve our nation, our communities and to honor our fellow veterans,” he said.
McSparrin’s intelligence, wit, and spirit are an inspiration to all who know him, including his VA healthcare teams in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, ID. As a believer, Don also gives thanks “to Almighty God” through St. Cyril’s Byzantine Catholic Church.
Inspiration? Said this could be Gonzaga’s year
At 97, when asked what inspires him now, he says, “I have so many wonderful memories. But as he looks towards the horizon, he can’t help but think of his favorite and beloved basketball team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. “Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year they win it all? I would love to see that,” he said.