World War-II Veteran Donald McSparrin continues to inspire his family and the dedicated team at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center by crediting VA for his continued health, access to COVID vaccines and a life-long commitment to service before self.

He was an “airman” before the Air Force was even borne.

Don and Roberta celebrate 50th anniversary with their seven daughters

U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran McSparrin is 97 and was recently accompanied to his appointment at VA by his daughter Lisa. Born in 1924, and like many who grew up during The Great Depression, he followed his own father’s footsteps into the military after WWI.

Long before acquiring a 120-acre ranch and settling down to raise his family outside Chewelah, Washington, McSparrin enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was trained as a weather forecaster and helped plan top-secret aircraft bombing missions into Nazi Germany and throughout 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 shop.

They were happily married for 72 years. Beyond the military, travel and raising a family together, McSparrin attended several higher education institutions, including Harvard University. He earned degrees in both 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 wedding anniversary.

Daughter Susan is a retired registered nurse who has cared for her father since Roberta’s passing just two years ago. “I’m privileged to care for Dad, along with the loving help from all my sisters and the wonderful help, care,and services from the Coeur d’Alene Senior Center, American Legion and VA,” she said.

Daughter Rachel distinctly remembers a special moment while she was a little girl and dad worked at one of the nuclear reactor plants that helped put an end to WWII. President John F. Kennedy visited the Hanford Nuclear Complex, honoring Kaiser Engineering and its employees, including McSparrin.

More than 50 years later, daughter Lisa escorted her father to his recent appointment at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center. Beaming with pride, Lisa couldn’t help but “ham it up” with her Dad. They shared stories of his days as a young boy, stealing watermelons or getting his tonsils out without any anesthesia.

Donald McSparrin

“My papa is a bad ass,” she said, smiling. She explained how he loved billiards and was a regular at the famous “Don’s Pool Hall” in nearby 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 during burial ceremonies. “This is how we were taught to serve our nation, our communities, and to honor our fellow Veterans,” he said.

McSparrin’s smarts, wit and can-do spirit are an inspiration to all who know him, including his VA health care teams in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, ID. As a believer, Don also gives his thanks “to God Almighty” through St. Cyril’s Byzantine Catholic Church.

Inspiration? Says this could be Gonzaga’s year

At 97, when asked what inspires him now, he says, “I have many wonderful memories.” But as he looks to the horizon, he can’t help but think about his favorite and beloved Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team. “Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year they win it all? I’d sure like to see that,” he said.

By Bret Bowers is a public affairs officer at the Mann-Grandstaff VA

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Published on Feb. 27, 2022

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