Featured Corporator: Rodney Sparrow
Growing up in Lexington and Acton, Rodney Sparrow knew Emerson Hospital as the community’s hospital. Years later, his wife, Deborah, gave birth to their two daughters at Emerson. Mrs. Sparrow was impressed with the hospital and enthusiastically joined the Emerson Hospital Auxiliary. As time passed, three grandchildren were born at Emerson. “They play the chimes every time,” says Mr. Sparrow, referring to the tradition where Brahms’s lullaby is played at the birth of every baby.
When Mrs. Sparrow was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family experienced a different side of the hospital, and Mr. Sparrow’s appreciation for Emerson steadily grew. “So many people cared for Debbie, including Robin Schoenthaler, who was a real standout,” he says, referring to one of the hospital’s radiation oncologists. “She became very close to Debbie in short order. The fact is, Debbie fell in love with everyone at Emerson because of how generous and helpful they were.”
Mrs. Sparrow died in 2010 at age 60, and her husband forged his own close connection with Emerson. “I wanted to do something in Debbie’s memory,” he says. After discussions with Jack Dresser, vice president for development and community services, Mr. Sparrow decided to establish the Deborah Sparrow Nursing Education Fund. The fund promotes leadership development among prominent Emerson nursing staff.
“I think you base your opinion of a hospital largely on the quality of the nursing care,” he says. “It’s important that Emerson’s nurses have strong leadership.”
Today, Mr. Sparrow is a corporator representing Bolton, where he has lived for eight years. In 2012, he became a member of the Emerson Health Care Foundation board. “I’ve come to understand and appreciate what the hospital needs to be successful,” he says. “Consistent giving is important. As I found out, the hospital makes it easy to give. You can arrange to give in small increments.”
In addition to his involvement with Emerson, Mr. Sparrow is owner and president of Leaktite Corporation, a family business established in 1945. The company fabricates plastic and metal products, including buckets, pails and trays. “We make all of Home Depot’s five-gallon orange buckets, which carry their advertisements,” he explains.
Mr. Sparrow took over the family business in 1984 and moved it to Leominster. Although he studied marketing and sales as a business major at the University of Maine, he had a feel for Leaktite. “I’d rather sell a product I can hold in my hand as opposed to a service,” he says.
Similarly, Mr. Sparrow wished to mark his wife’s memory in a permanent and visible way at Emerson. He recently made an additional gift to Emerson’s cancer center initiative and, with his two daughters, decided to name the “night sky” mural in radiation oncology in her honor. The painting of twinkling stars on the ceiling replicates a planetarium and is intended to distract patients during treatment. The plaque nearby reads: When you wish upon a star—The “night sky” given in loving memory of Debbie Curtis Sparrow by her family—Rod, Tobey and Stacey.
“We all felt it was really important that we leave a legacy in Debbie’s honor,” he says. “I’m happy that my daughters are tied to Emerson. We’ve been invited to lunches with members of the hospital’s nursing leadership, and we’ve toured the cancer center with Dr. Schoenthaler.
“For generations to come, members of the Sparrow family will be committed to Emerson. That matters a lot to me.”