Readers confirm death of former Tracy mayor
by Sam Matthews / Tracy Press
May 08, 2010 | 8429 views | 4 4 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joan Sparks died Aug. 2, 2008, in Modesto. She was 82.

Those stark facts have been reported and confirmed in the past few days as Tracyites got busy on the Internet to find out whether Tracy’s former mayor was still among us.

Dorlane Thrasher, who had worked with Joan in a number of community projects, was first to report Joan’s death after finding her name and date of death in the Social Security Death Register. Robert Neilsen was right behind Dorlane with the same information from the same source, and Sandy Toon in Lodi also found Joan’s date of death.

At last, I received a phone call from Joan’s daughter, Maleta Sparks Snell, who lives in upstate New York. Maleta reported that a Tracy High classmate, Kathy Minner Jones, had contacted her through Facebook.

According to Maleta, her mother, who had overcome a number of health problems during her lifetime, went downhill in the summer of 2008 while living in Modesto. She died Aug. 2. At her request, no public funeral was held. Following cremation, a private family service was held.

“My brother was supposed to contact people in the places where Joan had lived, but apparently he didn’t,” she said. “I want to apologize for our family for that.”

As questions about Joan were raised in recent weeks, the likelihood that she had died became more pronounced, but no one was certain. Those still puzzled included many who had worked with her in city government or on a number of community projects, including Good Samaritan Community Services and Brighter Christmas.

Plans for former mayors to take part in the program commemorating the centennial of the incorporation of the city started the search for the former mayors. All could be located save Joan, and now we know why.

In mentioning former mayors who had been found in last week’s column, I failed to list one name I had on my list, Aymon Hall. Aymon, the former Tracy Police sergeant and head of security at the depot, was mayor in 1978, when Tracy celebrated the town’s centennial of its founding.

In fact, Aymon is the only former mayor still living full-time in Tracy. I’ll give Dick Hastie half-time credit, since he spends time here a portion of the year when not traveling around the country in his RV, including major stops in Arizona or Oregon.

Dick is now in Tracy and is coordinating the former mayors’ participation in the July 24 program to commemorate the formation of Tracy’s municipal government.

Water woes continue

A few weeks ago, in mentioning the city of Tracy’s solid position in obtaining sources of water, I noted that farmers along the Delta-Mendota Canal have been allocated water amounting to only 30 percent of their contracts with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

This week, the Bureau announced that allocation has been increased to 40 percent because of heavy spring rain in the valley and snow in the Sierra. Compared with last year’s 10 percent allocation, that 40 percent sounds good, but it’s illusionary, reports Rick Gilmore, general manager of the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District. A portion of BBID in the Tracy area — the former Plain View Water District — relies solely on water from the federal canal.

According to Rick, severe restrictions in pumping into the canal because of court decisions to save the Delta smelt will continue through June. And, too, the higher allocations of water have come too late to allow growers of row crops along the canal to plan and plant for this year.

“We could have an additional 500 acres or more in row crops, probably corn, but that’s about all,” Rick said. “The Delta-Mendota water we will receive still will go mostly to sustain orchards and vineyards. Most fields that could be planted in row crops will remain fallow.”

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 24, 2010
Wow, back in the day Joan Sparks was a huge personality in Tracy. It is a shame that she was not able to be recongnized in death.
May 10, 2010

Ain't this th place where Homer Simpson would say, "Dough?" :)
May 08, 2010
storkfmny - Dick was a Mayor not an employee. The Mayor does NOT get retirement benefits
May 08, 2010
" I’ll give Dick Hastie half-time credit, since he spends time here a portion of the year when not traveling around the country in his RV, including major stops in Arizona or Oregon."

Sure, with the retirement benefits that city employees get, why not travel the world on the taxpayers dime.

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