Memorial speech given by Romas Sparkis,
Valyte's brother, on Jan. 28, 2012
Early Years
Lithuanian Activities
Middle Years
Seattle Life















































































Labas Rytas! Good morning.

On behalf of the Sparkis family, I thank each of you for being here today.
Thank you to all who travelled from distant places - like Omaha and New York! Chicago, Florida, California...
Thank you also for all who have helped Valyte during her struggle with cancer in recent months.
We cannot thank you enough for all the efforts you made for her, and all the happiness you have given her in her last days.
We give a special thank you to my cousin Jerry, who selflessly took on so much responsibility in caring for Valyte, when her immediate family could not be here to help.
We also give a special thank you for Valyte's close friends, known as the Golden Girls, who took turns caring for Valyte daily, when she could not help herself.
We give another special thank you to the Daughters of Lithuania, Lietuvos Dukterys, who also mobilized their forces in helping Valyte during her last weeks, as well as for being of service to our family during our stay here; and together with the Lithuanian-American Community or Lietuviu Bendruomene,  for putting together this wonderful Memorial today.
YEAR Age I have been asked to talk a little about Valyte's early days, before she moved from Chicago to Seattle in 1988, to live in this community among all of you. 
1952 4 Valyte's travels began after World War II, when she and our parents took a long boat ride from Europe to Omaha, Nebraska. When she turned 4 years old, the Sparkis family grew to 4 members there with my arrival. After a couple more years in Omaha, my father decided to move to Chicago, a bigger city with more opportunities.
1954 6 In October of 1954 Valyte attended Holy Cross school for a year. The next fall we moved to Brighton Park, where she transferred to Immaculate Conception School, which was also run by the Sisters of St Casimir, a Lithuanian order of Catholic nuns. She became a Sodality Girl, practicing devotion to the Virgin Mother Mary.
Valyte attended the separate Lithuanian classes offered at ICs. She did not mind spending extra time learning more about her culture and first language.
Valyte was a friendly girl who had many friends in school, and in our neighborhood. Just before Valyte turned 8 years of age, our family grew to 5 members with the arrival of Nijole.
1957 9 Valyte joined the Lithuanian Girl Scouts at age 9, meeting in Bridgeport. Here she met Violeta Smieliauskaite, another life-long friend, whose Mom had also been active in scouts and would eventually run the dance group named Grandis. Nijole and I also became scouts and would eventually camp in Michigan for 2 weeks of the summer, where each night ended with a campfire of skits and songs. One of our favorite performers and scout leaders was Valyte's friend Zita Petkus, one of the Golden Girls here today. I believe the Vaiceliunaites also started scouting here, including Golden Girl Ausy Ramanauskas.
Valyte learned ballet from Ponas Valbasis, and performed in various programs, through high school. She danced with Kristina Zebrauskas, who is now a doctor in North Carolina and helped keep Valyte inspired in her final days.
Prior to having a car, our family would take a train to Omaha some summers, so Mom could visit her parents and 9 brothers and sisters who had remained there, and my sisters and I could visit some of our dozens of cousins.
My dad eventually bought a '57 Chevy and started giving Valyte rides to her activities. We also started driving to Chicago's various botanical gardens, zoos, beaches, museums and events at Jaunimo Centras or the Youth Center. This started a family tradition of traveling and learning.
1962 14 After the Beatles came along, she learned to play guitar. She took lessons at Chicago's Old Town School of Music, and went to performances of Tom Rush whenever he was in town.
I remember her more as a singer and dancer. By the time she started high school she sang harmonies with her friends, Julie & Carol who called themselves the Pleasant Peasants, and that group continued into her college years with the pseudo-sorority name Rho Lambda Rho.
1963 15 By the time she was 15, she joined Grandis, the cultural ambassadors who performed Lithuanian Folk Dances at places such as the 1964 World's Fair in New York. They traveled to  other places as well, and she eventually convinced me, then Nijole to join the fun as well.
1967 19 Her travels probably influenced our family's decision to leave the country to visit Expo67 in Montreal. That made an impression on all of us.
1962+ 14 - 17 Other ways that Valyte was involved in the Chicago Lithuanian Community was by attending Chicago's Lithuanian High School on Saturdays, and continuing on to graduate from Pedagoginis Institutas, or Teacher's College.
1966 18 From there, she taught regularly in the Roseland community near Indiana, and other Lithuanian schools, such as Institutas in Chicago. She also worked as a volunteer at the Lithuanian Institute Archives in Chicago.
1966+ 18 - 23 In American school, after graduating from High School, she went to the University of Illinois at Navy Pier for her Bachelor's degree. When they finished building Circle Campus, she earned her Master's degree in Communication there.
Among her publications were Lithuanian girl scout manuals, in which she encouraged my sister Nijole to provide the illustrations. She also helped  to prepare and publish a Lithuanian version of the Richard Scarry books for children, published in many languages.
By the time she finished college, she decided to move to Marquette Park, to be closer to her friends and her many Lithuanian activities.
She had become an intelligent, independent young woman and tried various career options, none of which seemed to be quite as satisfying as all her extracurricular activities.
1988 39 By 1988, many of Valyte's friends had moved out of Marquette Park, and she decided it was time for a change. Seattle beckoned.
1989 40 I was also looking for a new job the following year, and came to visit her in Kirkland, having heard many good things about Seattle. She took me to the Space Needle, various museums and parks, the Tacoma Zoo, etc.,  and we returned via ferry across Puget Sound, something that had not been among our family travel traditions!
1997 49 I eventually wound up moving to Tallahassee, FL. Valyte came to visit me in '97 and again in '99, and we were amazed at how similar our humid climates are, both ideal for huge flocks of migrating seabirds and other birds, which kept us appreciating nature at opposite corners of the country.
2006 58 In 2006, one of my Tallahassee friends had an opportunity to teach in Seattle during the summer. I put Elizabeth in touch with Valyte, and she immediately arranged to take her on tours of beautiful Seattle sites: Ravenna Park, Bradner Gardens, the Bloedel Reserve, and others.
2008 60 The 2008 Los Angeles Lithuanian dance festival was an opportunity to celebrate Valyte's 60th birthday and our Mom's 80th Birthday. My wife Gabrielle and I took the opportunity to visit the 18th century Spanish Missions of California, from San Diego to north of San Francisco, since we have been researching the 17th century Spanish Missions of Florida. Along with Nijole & Fritz, whom we stayed with in California, we took my Mom and Valyte on a pilgrimage to visit some of the unique missions between San Fernando and Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, continuing a family tradition of traveling and learning.
Though Valyte has come to the end of her travels, we are continuing to learn about what she had learned to do with her life. Thank you again for sharing your memories of Valyte, and for your participation here today.