By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

My dear husband, Alan, passed away on Friday.  He has had a tough year, diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, tongue cancer, c diff, COVID, hospitalization for a second bout of c diff, and heart rhythm problems.  Yet through all of that he kept an upbeat attitude and his wonderful sense of humor. In February he had successful surgery on his tongue, but oral cancers are usually aggressive and by mid-July he began having problems swallowing.  On July 19th a scan showed the cancer had recurred and there was wide-spread metastasis.  No further treatment was possible.  He went into Hospice on July 25th and died July 28th.

Indulge me in writing a bit about him.  He was born in the Philippines just prior to the outbreak of WWII; his father was a Scottish businessman stationed in Manila.  When the war broke out, Alan, his parents and brother were all interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  It was as grim as you might imagine, in the end living on one cup of rice for the family and sheltered only in a lean-to shanty. They were rescued in February 1945 and chose to immigrate to the United States.  They settled in Pasadena, California, where Alan grew up and was involved in sports, achieved Eagle Scout rank and according to his mother, excelled in creating general mayhem.  He always had a twinkle in his eye and an ability to schmooze that served him well over the years.  His profession was in marketing for large commercial insurance companies, and he was well-suited to the job.

Alan had two children he adored: a son, Colin and a daughter, Wendy.  He considered Wendy’s husband, Steve, to be like a son. Alan loved being a “Grandpa” to Wendy’s two boys, Matthew and Jake.  They held a treasured place in his heart and they had him wrapped around their tiny fingers from the moment they were born.

He explored many hobbies over the years, but in 1990 began playing golf and in it he found his passion.  When he retired, he spent a lot of time playing, but he also enjoyed practicing.  He was a true “range rat”.  He visited the PGA Superstore so often that I once suggested he get a job there. He loved watching hockey, particularly the Montreal Canadiens and the Washington Capitals.  But mostly he was a rabid USC football fan.  And I mean a fan.  Every fall he asked me to mark the SC games on the calendar and woe be to me if I scheduled any social engagements that conflicted.  Our friends would gently suggest that there was such a thing as a DVR, but Alan insisted (and I kind of agreed) that nothing beats watching sports live.

He was a loving, devoted dog dad to Dash the Wonder Dog.  In fact, I coined the “wonder dog” name because for 20 years Alan did not want a dog.  When he finally relented and we got Dash, Alan became putty in his paws.  In almost every photo I have of him he is holding Dash.  They created a special bond and Dash turned an indifferent pet owner into a complete sap.  Dash truly did wonders for him, especially during his trials this past year.

This is a very sad time for our family.  Dash is confused and keeps looking for him, which breaks my heart.  I know our lives will never be the same.  But I have tried to look for bright spots along the way these past few days.  First, and most importantly, the whole family was able to fly here the weekend following his diagnosis to spend time with him.  They were able to tell him how much they loved him, and he could do the same in return.  He told Matt and Jake how proud he was of the young men they have become, and that is a gift they can treasure for the rest of their lives.  He and I were able to spend time saying all the things we wanted to say to one another.  He knew how much I loved him, and I know his wishes for me as I go forward.

The second gift was the friends who gave me support and comfort this past week. My friend Debbie brought me support in innumerable ways, not the least of which was being here when the hospice transport came, and Alan left the house for the last time.  My friend Marge drove down from Idaho in hopes of saying goodbye to Alan.  After a two-day drive she arrived at our house at the exact moment they were transporting Alan to hospice.  She went with me to hospice each day and to the mortuary to make final arrangements.  My niece Shelley came up from Tucson for a day to spend time with me and give me a much-needed hug.  I am so blessed to have such a loving family and friends, all of whom have offered support and love, both in person and from afar.

I know I have a difficult road ahead of me, but I am trying to be grateful for the time we had together.  Next month we would have celebrated 36 years of marriage.  Many years ago, someone asked me why I thought Alan and I were so happily married, and I told her that he made me laugh every day.  I think that was our “secret sauce”, as no matter how irritated we might get over something, we always ended up making each other smile.

I am also grateful for the way in which he passed.  It was not sudden, nor was it drawn out.  He had the opportunity to tell all of us how much we meant to him, and he heard how much we all loved him.  Not everyone gets that experience at the end of their life.

I stumbled on this phrase from Ram Dass a few months ago that struck a chord then and has resonated a lot this week:

Sharing our love and our gifts
With any who join us on our roam,
Enlightenment comes to let us know
We Are Just Walking Each Other Home.

Rest in Peace, my sweet angel Alan.  It has been my privilege to walk you home.

All the News That’s Unfit to Rhyme

by Bob Sparrow

Red Posey?

I haven’t traveled in several weeks, and there is not much of interest going on in my life currently, so my options for writing this week’s blog are significantly limited.  But you belong to a loyal following, who have come to expect something interesting, entertaining or thought-provoking each week.  That’s what you paid for when you signed up for our blog . . . oh, wait a minute, the blog is free!  But you understandably still have some expectations.

Those of you who have been with us from the beginning (that’s the summer of 2011) know that we started out, not with a blog, but writing ‘tribute poems’ for people who would request something for a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasions.  That was called ‘Red Posey’ – I forget why.  It was fairly short-lived.  We then started a blog, something that, prior to saying “Let’s write a blog”. we’d never heard the term, but plunged in, writing a four-stanza poem, twice a week, following the format of the popular national newspaper of the day, USA Today, which had four sections, world news, business, sports, and entertainment.  This iteration of the blog was called, Morning News in Verse, with a by-line that read, All the News that Fit to Rhyme.  If we were still doing that today, it would look something like this:


We read of the soldier who escaped to Korea

And all of this year’s political diarrhea

Of flooding and fires and all that looks grim

Of airlines that cancel their flights on a whim


We hope that our stocks continues to rise

And that interest rates stop reaching those highs

We see that AI is improving with haste

As we’re praying to Google that we won’t be replaced


The Open was won by B. Harman with ease

Bringing the rest of the field to their knees

Sooner, no, probably later, baseball will end

Which means college football season begins!!!


The writers are striking the actors are too

With no movies or TV, just what will we do?

You could stop browsing your phone to find a new friend

Try face-to-face meetings and re-start an old trend


After reading that, it becomes fairly obvious why that format only lasted about six months and why we were ready to move on from poetry to prose – my Iambic has clearly left my pentameter!.  We moved on to the current format in March 2012.

We’ve seriously considered taking the blog off of Facebook, as we don’t agree with some of the information gathering algorithm they use (If you don’t see our blog next week on Facebook, you’ll know that they took us down after reading this!).  So, even though we’re not big fans of Facebook, it is popular with our peers (the ‘older’ age groups), and thus it is where most of our readers read our blog, so big tech wins again.

If you too are not that happy with Facebook, you can ‘subscribe’ to this blog by pressing the ‘Subscribe’ button in the right-hand column of this blog and have it go directly to your ‘Spam’ folder in your email.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

While my brother’s post last week was about his adorable grandchildren (and, yes, they are that cute and talented!), I was drawn back three generations to do more research on our great-grandfather, John Hoever (pronounced “Hoover”).  My interest in him was renewed last week when I read an article originally published in the Napa Valley Marketplace magazine about the history of the Napa State Hospital.  In 1900 John Hoever died there for reasons yet to be discovered.  Napa was no ordinary hospital; it was more commonly known as the Napa State Asylum for the Insane.  Well…that goes a long way in explaining our family peculiarities. Like many of you, I have passed by the hospital on my way through wine country, but never knew its history…or how dangerous it is today.

Napa Hospital at the time of John’s residency

The hospital was opened on November 15, 1875.  The original main building known as “the Castle” was an ornate and imposing brick building. By the early 1890s, the facility had over 1,300 patients which was more than double the original capacity it was designed to house.  A majority of the patients were foreign born, like my grandfather.  He left Germany in 1875 and immigrated to San Francisco.

The Napa Asylum treated patients for a variety of ailments; many of the early residents were admitted due to alcoholism or homelessness. This was a time in Europe known as “The Long Depression” when many people immigrated to the United States in search of a better life.  But the U.S. was also in an economic downturn, so one can speculate that some of the immigrants ended up without work and homeless.  Women admitted at the end of the 19th century were often diagnosed with acute mania, melancholia, or paranoia. The hospital treated everything from epilepsy, paralysis, and syphilis, to jealousy, masturbation, and even disappointment in love.  Pretty much covered the gamut of social ills of the time.  

In the early years of the hospital, work therapy was used as a common treatment for patients. The routine and predictability of asylum life were thought to aid patients. The grounds contained a large farm that included dairy and poultry ranches, vegetable garden, and fruit orchards that provided a large part of the food supply consumed by the residents.  Growing their own food and using patients for labor also kept the costs down – and the profits up – for the directors of the hospital.

         Napa Hosptial today

Over the years this bucolic site changed, as did the residents.  Up until the 1920’s, patients were either self-admitted or sent there by their families.  Slowly, as psychiatric care became more sophisticated, many of the ailments that confined people to the hospital were able to be treated on an outpatient basis.  The facility was re-named, Napa State Hospital, and served as a traditional psychiatric hospital until the 1990s when it started taking court referrals. Despite being filled with perpetrators of violent, often heinous crimes, it was still considered to be a hospital, not a prison.  The patients were committed, but not locked up. Police officers were posted at hospital entrances, but uniformed guards did not patrol the halls of even the highest-risk units. So, over time the most violent patients were left to terrorize the others freely, with only doctors and nurses to stop them.  In 2010, a nurse was murdered by an inmate, which prompted the hospital to hire more police officers and the staff were outfitted with personal alarms so they could call for help if they felt threatened. So, today it is safer, but about 90 percent of the patient population is funneled into the hospital through the criminal justice system. I don’t think Napa State Hospital is going to make anybody’s “Top Ten Places to Work” list, no matter how many improvements they make.

Annie, with her three children. Our grandmother is on the right.

As for our great-grandfather, I still have no idea why he was committed to Napa.  Perhaps my great-grandmother, Annie, kept the reasons to herself, as neither my grandmother or father ever indicated they knew anything about his time there or manner of death.  In the July 1900 census, he was listed as having been in Napa Hospital for 12 months.  Annie gave birth to a daughter in February 1900, so he must have gone in shortly after she found herself pregnant.  He died in September of that year and his obituary said that “his funeral had the largest crowd ever seen in town, which bore testimony to the esteem with which this good man was held.”  So, I don’t think he had been the town drunk.

As for Annie, she was a remarkable woman for her age and time.  After John’s death she took over managing the jewelry store they owned and was described in “The History of Colusa and Glenn Counties” as someone who had “demonstrated her ability as a businesswoman and won great success through her own efforts”.  That was quite a compliment to be given a woman in business in 1918! I have inherited the diamond from her engagement ring and whenever I think I’m having a hard time I look at it and know that I have it easy compared to her.

I’m not sure I’ll ever find out why John was committed to Napa.  Several years ago I wrote the hospital asking if they had any records of him, but I never heard back.  Now that I know more about the current situation, I think the staff has enough on their hands just to stay alive without having to answer emails about someone who died in 1900.  All I know is I will never pass that hospital again without thinking about him and vowing that if I’m ever up on a violent crime charge, I’ll plead guilty rather than risk going to Napa!















It’s Grand to Be Grand

by Bob Sparrow

Dylan, Emma, Addison and Mac

When Linda and I first got married, back when the earth was still cooling, she said she couldn’t wait to be a grandmother.  I can’t remember my stance on grandparenthood at the time, I was probably ambivalent, but I did mention to Linda that there was a step between where we were then and her being a grandmother – so, enter Dana and Jeff.  Her passion for being a grandmother came from a great relationship she had with her maternal grandmother, Petra, while growing up in Minnesota.  Linda actually wanted to name Dana, Petra, for which Dana still thanks me.  I, on the other hand, liked my grandparents, but I didn’t spend that much time with them and the time I did spend, I just felt it was time spent with some familiar ‘old people’.

Fast forward to today and I now think I invented grandparenthood!  We are fortunate enough to have four amazing grandchildren.  I’m going to go on a bit about them; perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I hope any of you grandparents out there would feel the same way about yours.


The first grandchild came from my daughter, Stephanie and husband, Jason, a boy named Dylan.  Now, at 12 years old, he has become quite an accomplished piano player and has been in several bands as a keyboard player.


Not only does he play the piano, but he composes his own songs, seemingly with very little effort – and they are quite good.  One day when he was at our house playing an original piece, I told him that he should hook up with someone who writes poetry and they could write some popular songs together.  He said that his school had a poetry writing contest and . . . he won!  So, don’t be surprised if he becomes a famous song writer!  He will be entering junior high this fall and is hopeful of getting into a performing arts high school in a couple of years.  His sister, Emma, who is 10, is a very accomplish dancer and has been for a number of years.  She is also blessed with a big personality and a beautiful smile.  Both Dylan and Emma attend an immersive Italian language school and are both fluent in the language.  This summer, when the family visited Italy, we saw several videos of Emma ordering various dishes and conversing with the servers in Italian.  She really seemed to enjoy it and the Italians said that she had a great accent.  She is a smart, adorable, talented young lady.



Our third and forth grandchildren, Addison and Maclin, came from our daughter, Dana and husband, Joe.  Addison is six going on 15!  She is very mature, has a very out-going personality, is very smart and has a great sense of humor.  She plays soccer and softball, and is currently taking golf and piano lessons.  She’s also has written and sings a couple original songs.  A year ago, the ‘girls’ went on a wine tasting weekend in Temecula and I got to babysit Addison – so the two of us went to the San Diego  Zoo, Safari Park in Escondido – it was one of the best 24 hours I’ve ever spent.   Mac’s nickname is ‘Turbo’, because he is always on the move and attacks things with reckless abandon.  At three, he loves sports, particularly hockey.  He is currently practicing hockey at the same rink father, Joe did when he was a kid.  One has to be at least five years old to play on a team, but one of the coaches saw Mac skate and said he wanted this three-year-old on his team now!!  It will be fun to see what he does with hockey.  He is also obsessed with two movies, for obvious reasons , The Might Ducks, a great story about a youth hockey team, and Top Gun – Maverick . he recites many of the lines from the movie and has a ‘Bomber Jacket’ that he sometimes sleeps in.  He seems to like nice clothes, as when he was asked when he wanted for his third birthday, the said, “a three-piece suit”.  Yes, a three-piece suit!!!  Because the family owns two restaurants and Joe is a certified Cordon Bleu chef, they both love to help Joe & Dana in the kitchen.

Fortunately, all four live within an hour, so we get to watch them grow up.  Like I’ve said, I’ve alwasys wanted to be a grandpartent!!  OK, maybe that wasn’t me, but now I love it!  So, with no travel plans for the next few weeks and the backyard finished, we’re looking forward to spoiling our grandchildren as much as possible.  We truly feel blessed.  Hope those of you with grandchildren feel exactly the same way!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

As I have previously mentioned, probably ad nauseum, I am a committed Anglophile.  Give me a good BritBox mystery show and a cup of Earl Grey and I’m in my element.  I have often wondered what side I would have chosen in the Revolutionary War.  One can’t assume that the people who resided in “the colonies” were automatically revolutionaries, or “Patriots”, as they were known.  It is estimated that 15-20% of the British people living here remained loyal to the crown.  Thus, they were known as “Loyalists”.  Probably most notable among them, ironically, was William Franklin, the son of Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. Many families at the time had divided loyalties, but none were as prominent – or as interesting – as the Franklins.

Flying the kite

William Franklin was born in Boston in 1730 and was Benjamin’s acknowledged illegitimate son.  He was raised by Franklin and his common-law wife, Deborah Read. Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall when Franklin had that discussion with his wife?  In any event, Franklin saw to William’s schooling and taught him the printing trade. William helped Benjamin publish Poor Richard’s Almanac and also assisted his father with many of his scientific investigations including his famous kite and lightening experiment.  Benjamin obtained a military commission for William during the French and Indian War, and later used his influence to help William be appointed to positions such as Controller of the General Post Office and Clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly. In other words, he was a nepo kid. When Benjamin’s government role took him to England, William accompanied him and formed many relationships with the British aristocracy.  When George III became King, William was appointed Royal Governor of New Jersey in 1862 and Benjamin could not have been prouder.  However, in the more than ten years that William served in that position his views diverged from his father’s, leading to a rift that would never quite heal.

Benjamin, sometimes referred to as a ‘reluctant revolutionary’, hoped at first that differences with the British could be resolved. When he did join the revolutionary cause, though, he was fully committed. He expected William would do likewise. In August 1775 Franklin traveled to New Jersey to convince William to join the rebellion. He told his son he would be accepted with open arms by those opposing the King and could easily win a generalship in the army forming under George Washington. But William believed America’s best chance to succeed lay in remaining with Britain. He firmly believed most Americans would not support the rebellion. He gave his famous “two roads” speech to the New Jersey legislature urging them to refuse to endorse the newly formed Continental Congress and take the road to prosperity as part of England rather than the road to civil war and anarchy. His efforts were to no avail.

A Loyalist being tarred and feathered

Ever a Loyalist, William secretly informed the British of revolutionary activities. Unfortunately for him, a packet of his letters was intercepted by the rebels who passed the information to the Continental Congress. They requested William be exiled from New Jersey. He was sent to Connecticut where he was jailed and placed in solitary confinement in a cell for prisoners about to be executed. Shocked at his harsh treatment, he wrote to Governor Trumball of Connecticut, “I suffer so much in being buried alive, having no one to speak with day or night…that I should deem it a favor to be immediately taken out and shot.”  Being shot was actually more humane than the normal punishment for Loyalists, most of whom were tarred and feathered. William’s wife became gravely ill and died while he was imprisoned. During all his travails, Benjamin exerted no effort on his behalf, leaving William to face the consequences of his decisions. In 1777, suffering from ill health, he was exchanged with another prisoner and allowed to go to New York. From there he departed for England where he would live in exile for the rest of his life.

William attempted to reconcile with Benjamin while the latter was in Paris as one of America’s peace commissioners, but Benjamin rebuffed William’s overture. The two would never mend their differences, each remaining true to his convictions.  They never saw each other again.

So, tomorrow, if you find yourself with family or friends with whom you have divergent views, don’t be the Franklins.  Find a way to compromise…or just chug another beer and agree to disagree.