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      Progreso bridge owner remembered

      His family came to Santa Rosa from Alabama when he was two-years-old.

      Eighty years later, Sam Sparks leaves a history of kindness.

      "He liked to do good things," said daughter, Elizabeth Johnson.

      Sparks passed away Wednesday at 84-years-old.

      He began work at a young age.

      "His family was so poor, when he was 12 or 13 he hitch hiked from Santa Rosa to Alabama to work for the railroad," said Johnson.

      His work ethic spread to farming.

      His business bloomed in the Valley.

      "His deal was you can't be a windshield farmer," said son Bobby Sparks. "You have to get out and get your hands dirty."

      Farm profits put Sparks in a place to invest.

      "He told me he was reading an article in Forbes magazine about a family that owned a bridge in Michigan, and he said 'I think that would work out,' and he said ~I'm going to look into the Progreso bridge,'" said son Bobby Sparks.

      Sam Sparks bought the Progreso-Nuevo Progreso Bridge, tore it down and reconstructed it.

      Toll money rolled in but not always into Sparks' pockets.

      "He'd open the bridge up two days out of the year and let the Shriners have all of the collections off that for their children's hospital," said Johnson.

      Sparks' children remember a specific time he helped get medical attention for a little girl in Mexico who had a tumor behind her eye.

      It was an action part of his personal philosophy.

      "If you are blessed with many things, then you are expected to pass those blessings on," said Johnson.

      The Sparks family plans to pass their blessings on, continuing both work in local farming and work for the good of others.

      Funeral services for Sam Sparks will be held at 2:00 p.m. Saturday at the Church of Christ in Harlingen.

      A private burial service will then be held for the family.