Silvija the Ladylady, OL

  • Dr. Sylvia Sparkis
  • Passed: September, 1999

A Tribute

Unto my good friends and comrades,

It is with great sadness that I send this missive. Last night, I received a phone call from the Seneschal of Oldenfeld announcing the very sudden and unexpected passing of a dear friend, Mistress Silvija the Landlady, mundanely known as Dr. Sylvia Sparkis. From what I have been told, she had fallen ill, and had been taken to the hospital by her husband, Baron Romas the Mapmaker. She passed away in the hospital. We have since learned that she had a blood clot that had moved into her lung. The good folk of Oldenfeld have rallied to Romas's side, and are fielding calls on his behalf.

I was very crushed by this news. Mistress Silvija has been a wonderful friend for many years. As I look back on our friendship and her life, I wanted to share some of my memories of her with you.

If I were to use any adjective to describe Silvija, the word "Spunky" comes to mind. I always found it ironic that her married name is "Sparkis," as it seems very appropriate for that 4-foot-something bottle of pep! With a wonderful sense of humor and joie-de-vivre, Silvija was affectionately referred to as "Dr. Fun." Indeed, how many have received their PhD's by studying "fun?" And it never failed that for any scenario, Silvija had a story. Silvija had an amazing flair for telling tales that applied, (sort of, in a way, kind of, tangentially) to the subject at hand. Of course, these inevitably degraded into "another sad tale of little Stepnifetchnik," but never without many gales of laughter. Heck, her maiden name in Lithuanian translated roughly into "crunchy sound of leaves underfoot."

I remember the first time I met Mistress Silvija at an event. Of course, we were dancing. She was teaching a familiar dance. In a comic twist on an old Western, I couldn't help but think to myself, "this dance floor ain't big enough for the two of us!" Quite to the contrary, though, we immediately embarked upon a wonderful friendship, comparing notes, teaching techniques and various dances. As our friendship grew, I discovered that Mistress Silvija was one of the truest "students of life" I have ever met. Being a mundane Ph.D. of Anthropology, she often joked about being a "professional voyeur." Indeed, in a very unique twist on tradition, she received her Laurel in the Midrealm though completing her doctorate studies - watching, learning, and teaching.

Within the Society, she referred to herself as a "Stuff Laurel." This was never a truer description of anyone, as there wasn't much that Silvija hadn't done at some point or another. Her talents truly ranged across the board. She sewed, cooked, danced, performed, gardened, made stained glass, and so on and so on. Her home, in many ways, is a reflection of her artistic spirit, combining

her many interests from stained glass to sewing to gardening; her back-yard butterfly garden is surreal in its complexity and Eden-like beauty. As one example, as a wedding present for my dear lady wife and me, Silvija created an absolutely magnificent stained glass window of the Lion of St. Mark that graces the front of my home. This three-foot-square creation is, in her description, a "small" project - she was used to working on large-scale pieces. As amazing as the window is, I find difficulty looking at it now realizing that she is gone.

Silvija truly loved culture and folk tradition. Her anthropological studies took her to some of the furthest reaches of Eastern Europe. She studied and learned the culture, dances, songs and the folk-traditions of peoples who have been plagued by war and destruction for so long that their countries' names have become almost synonymous with those concepts. Yet, through her efforts and the efforts of others like her, we have gained an understanding and an appreciation of the cultural richness of those whose lives are so very different from our own. Thinking of Silvija reminds me of the many facets of life. When one looks at a person, a country, and a culture, there are so many, many ways to learn from it. Is a Russian defined by his history, or by his clothing? Is a Romanian defined by his cooking, or by his dance? Is a Bosnian judged by his folktales, or by his war-torn nation? What I have learned from Silvija is that a culture is all of these things - good and bad, serious and trivial, new and old. Like a proverbial "quickbread," a culture consists of the sum of the whole, while the absence of any ingredient makes the finished product less-than-complete.

I will miss Silvija very much. She made this society a better place, reminding us all that we do what we do (or SHOULD do what we do) because it is fun. I will miss dancing with Silvija. I have yet to understand how she could always stay on the dance floor, while I found myself on the sides trying to catch my breath! I will miss the stories that she had to share - give her a subject, and she could easily come up with a story to match it! I will miss her complex character - serious, yet childlike; researched, yet naive; artistic, yet scholarly. Like Wendy in Peter Pan,  Silvija will never grow old. She will always be, in my mind, a fun, partially insane playmate on the dance floor.

Silvija, shall we do one more Bourree' Valsee?

In sadness and with respect,
Giuseppe Francesco da Borgia
Joe Cook

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