by Sue Austreng
Busy at the grill preparing a hot breakfast for dozens of hungry veterans arriving at Sparky’s Cafe Feb. 1, John (Jack) Sparks turns and grins, nodding his head and waving a quick salute.
Later that Wednesday morning, some 45 to 50 of Anoka County’s veterans returned the salute, presenting Sparks with a certificate of appreciation.
You see, Sparks, who opened Sparky’s Cafe, 12 Bridge Square, Anoka, 30 years ago, has for the past 10 years or so offered a discount-priced breakfast to Anoka County veterans the first Wednesday of every month.
“Used to be a free breakfast for the vets, but that got to be pretty tough. Now it’s half-price breakfast. Half price – that’s a great deal,” said Tom Bohlman, a member of the Coon Rapids VFW who has long enjoyed breakfast at Sparky’s.
Bohlman and his fellow veterans wanted to show their appreciation to Sparks, so they had an engraved plaque made for him and presented it Feb. 1.
Some 45 or 50 comrades in arms witnessed the presentation and applauded Sparks’ generosity.
“It’s great he does this. He doesn’t have to do this, but it’s his way of saying ‘thanks,’” said Marv Roepke, chairman of the Anoka County Veterans Council and commander of the Coon Rapids VFW, after presenting the plaque.
Sparks never served in the military, opting instead to go to college, but his dad served in the Army during World War II.
“Those guys (veterans) have done so much,” Sparks said.
“When Veterans Day came up in 2004, I said, ‘You know, we gotta do something.’”
One of his servers encouraged him to make it an annual affair, according to Sparks.
“You know, with the number of vets we get in here anyway, it seemed like a natural thing to do,” Sparks said.
And so, the reduced-priced breakfast for vets tradition began.
The engraved plaque presented to Sparks by the veterans council reads, “In appreciation of the generosity you have shown to the Veterans of Anoka County. Thank you for your service.”
Sparks went to college to be a teacher “and look where it got him,” one of his servers said, as grateful veterans slapped him on the back and thanked him for serving them so many delicious breakfasts over the years.
Sue Austreng is at firstname.lastname@example.org