Howard Sparnenn

Howard Sparnenn


I first met Howard when he was a penniless musician, scraping around for loose change under the bed, in order to afford a pint. He was the drummer in a local band called ‘Flight’ who were set for big things, and had their single played on the Noel Edmonds and DLT Radio 1 shows.
Howard's Tribute

Howard thought he had to impress me by borrowing his friend’s sports car to take me on our first date, but he needn’t have bothered, I was hooked from the start. The dating became more serious, and we eventually got engaged in 1976.

Howard had been training to be an Accountant and had left it all behind to be a professional musician, but on the thought of an impending marriage and the subsequent responsibilities, he re-entered the world of finance to bring in a regular income. I was very unhappy with this move, but he was determined, and I loved him all the more for it.

So, after marriage on 8 July 1978, Howard and I moved around the country with Nationwide Building Society. I can honestly say we made many friends at this time, and don’t regret it at all. The drum kit came with us in all cases, and I never let him sell it.

Our first daughter Rebecca was born in December 1982, followed by Olivia in 1985. In 1996 we had the opportunity to move back to our home town of York with Howard’s job.

On moving back, all the old contacts were soon phoning Howard up, and he acquired quite a portfolio as a semi professional drummer. I was so pleased to see him behind the kit again, as this was what he really loved. The 10 years abatement in drumming had not diminished his skill in playing whatsoever, and it was a joy to watch him.

Our youngest daughter Olivia grew up to be a wonderful vocalist, and on many occasions, performed with her father.

The Christmas of 2007 was a lovely family and friends affair, and I remember Howard saying to me what a great time he had had, and how lucky he was to enjoy every part of his life. Directly after Christmas, Howard became increasingly tired, and eventually I persuaded him to go to the Doctor, who diagnosed a virus and told him to rest. Unless he was hiding symptoms from me, there were no headaches, just a ‘spaced out’ feeling.

On February 1st, 2008, Howard came out of the shower and collapsed on the bed. He still didn’t know what was wrong, but knew there was something terrible going on inside his head, He was having hallucinations, seeing his dead mother and father, then visions of myself and the girls. He also complained of a terrible taste in the mouth. He actually managed to call himself an ambulance, and within 24 hours, our lives were altered forever.

The doctor at York called us into a side room and told us the scan had showed a mass, and that Leeds Hospital had confirmed it to be a tumour. I remember the girls sobbing, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t – my husband was indestructible and could beat anything. He was the one that always looked after his family, and would give up his life for us if needs be.

We started to get used to the long journeys to Leeds and even the terrible parking problems every day! During these dark days, we somehow seemed to manage to make a joke out of situations. On one occasion, Howard had asked me to write down peoples’ names on a piece of paper, along with the name of the disease that he was suffering from. The next day I looked at it, and he had changed Brain Tumour to Brian Turner, thinking it must be someone he knew. Therefore, after that day, it was Brian Turner we had to beat. On another occasion, I found he was escaping down to the lobby shop to purchase a paper. He couldn’t read it properly, or make any logic out of it, but he was ringing the date at the top, so he knew the answer when the nurse asked him.

The day of Howard’s biopsy came, and when we arrived to visit, the Consultant was on hand to explain that it had not gone well, and he had had a bleed. It would be touch and go overnight, so they moved him nearer the desk. I dozed all that night, half expecting to hear the phone ring, and that terrible call, but it never did, and Howard’s bleed started to disperse. It did mean, however, that his right side was very bad, as was his speech. In true Howard fashion, though, within a matter of 2 weeks, his speech and movement had improved so much, the Consultant was amazed.

The biopsy held a double blow for us. Not only did it nearly take Howard from us, but the results showed this to be a Glioblastoma IV in the left temporal lobe. I believe Howard knew this meant he was going to die, but he never gave in to it. If there is some sort of strange meaning behind people getting these types of terrible brain tumours, I truly believe they are a source to show us just how brave that person really is.

Despite his obvious pain, Howard kept going throughout his terrible ordeal, would still love to go out for a pint, and interact with all his musician friends. He planned gigs where he could do a cameo spot drumming, rather than the whole night, knowing he didn’t have the strength really, to do it at all.

We went through 6 sessions of Radiotherapy, and waited for Howard to pick up, but he never did, and eventually his right side was so bad, he became totally bed ridden.

On Saturday 26 April 2008, Howard had such terrible pains in his head; the liquid morphine wouldn’t touch it. He was violently sick, and I sent for the out of hours doctor. He gave Howard an injection and told me that the tumour had worsened dramatically. He slept through the Sunday, and by Monday, my GP explained to me he may never wake up, and that there had probably been a bleed within the tumour. It would be a matter of days. My youngest daughter who had been away performing with her band, returned home, and I explained to her the situation.

Members of the band went upstairs and said their goodbyes to him. I phoned as many people as I could, and they all did the same. We kept him comfortable, and gave him water.

On the morning of Thursday 1st May 2008, Howard turned 55 years old. Many friends brought small gifts and cards. I explained to them he was not conscious, but as we entered the room, he opened his eyes and waved to them. He stretched his arm out, and pulled at the wrapping paper. This day was a gift from God, and as the Doctor said ‘it was not supposed to happen’.

Howard died at 2pm on Sunday 4 May. I was worried about how my daughters would cope with Howard being at home, but they said that this was what their dad would have wanted. They were so wonderful, that they touched the hearts of all the incredible District Nurses who attended to him, and they all cried when he died.

The volume of people at Howard’s funeral on 12 May made even the funeral directors gasp. They were stood in the lobby and outside in the garden of the crematorium.

There are so many events that Howard will not be here in the physical for, that sometimes it is too hard to bear. Olivia will graduate on 9th July, and the day before would have been our 30th Wedding Anniversary. We had booked a local venue for a party on Friday 4th July. I have decided to keep this, and my daughter’s band will perform. All proceeds will go to BTRS.

I’m not about to pretend that life will be easy without Howard, but he has left a legacy of love that will never end. He was a larger than life person – visually and character wise, much too large to let a little thing like death stop him!

Written by Howard's wife, Jeanette Sparnenn
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