One thing that is apparent when walking on the grounds of Sparks High School is that school spirit is high, especially during Homecoming Week. There is also an immense sense of pride amongst family, friends, alumni, and current students flowing through the halls. One example of this was last Friday when people filled up the Sparks High Theater to recognize inductees into the Sparks High Hall of Fame.
At the 19th annual Hall of Fame ceremony, Sparks High alumni Don Young, Barbara Canady, and Neil Fockler were honored as Class of 2020 students shared a bit about each graduate’s life.
Introduced by current student Erik Mayfield, he shared that Don Young and his family moved to Sparks in 1946 and he eventually graduated from Sparks High in 1951. After high school, Young became a fireman for Southern Pacific Railroad and then joined the Sparks Fire department as a volunteer in 1957. He worked his way up through the ranks throughout the years and served as fire chief before retiring in 1990. Young was also one of the first firefighters in western Nevada to earn an associate degree in Fire Science through the University of Nevada Board of Regents and he was instrumental in facilitating the Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team along with Reno and Truckee Meadows’ fire chiefs.
“This is a great honor for me to be inducted into this,” Young says. “I’ve had a lot of great experiences over the years, but this is by far one of the best,” he adds.
Next, Sparks High student Kevin Hulzar shared a bit about Barbara Canady’s accomplishments and time at Sparks High, which included graduating from the school in 1948 and then remaining there for the next 37 years. Canady was born in February 1930 on the McNeilly Ranch located on Wedekind Road and later moved to a home on D Street. While attending Sparks High, Canady was involved in numerous activities including Streamline Staff, Terminus Staff, and Junior Masqueraders.
“Her favorite activity was being a Majorette and marching with the Sparks High School Band at football games as well as parades,” Hulzar says. After graduating, Canady became a secretary at Sparks High and moved with the staff over to its current campus on 15th Street when it opened in 1955.
Her son Paul Canady accepted the award on Barbara’s behalf.
“Sparks High School meant everything to my mom. It says a lot to graduate from here and remain at this school for the rest of her career,” he says. “She loved to reminisce about her time here. She was a hardworking, happy, and wonderful person who is quite deserving of this honor. Thank you for keeping her memory alive in these halls; it means a lot to her family and friends,” Paul adds.
Lastly, Sparks High student Moises Gomez commented a bit about inductee Neil Fockler’s background, followed by Ellen Fockler who accepted the award on his behalf. Neil was born in a small mining town in South Dakota before moving to Northern Nevada and teaching at Sparks High in 1965. He taught classes such as “Family Life”, “Literature of the Cinema”, and English; he also acted as a director of the Open session of the Northern Nevada Writing Project. Neil was also instrumental in the sports program at Sparks High; he announced at baseball games, was part of the chain crew at football games, and coached the girls’ varsity basketball team.
“It’s an honor he would’ve truly cherished,” Ellen says, sharing stories about Neil’s quirky sense of humor that resonated so well with his students, his encouragement and gentle guiding.
“A teacher never knows where his influence stops and I believe that applies to fathers as well,” one of his sons said.
“He still has a plaque with a little train on it that says, ‘Once a Railroader, always a Railroader,” his other son added.
Neil was instrumental at Sparks High for 33 years before his untimely death in February of 1998. An avid landscape photographer, Ellen said that the night before his passing he left a slip of paper on his desk that stated:
“I see the world through a lens that captures moments that no one else sees. Tomorrow, I hope to walk where few have gone. I’ll capture images that save forever what it was, then leave behind prints on the heart of time.”
After the ceremony, inductees and fellow alumni were treated to punch and cake in the cafeteria before heading over to the Hall of Fame room in the Counselor’s Office to check out the plaques of fellow Hall of Fame inductees.