Family owned & family focused since 1952

Richard J. Jacobs

Richard J. Jacobs “The Man, The Myth, The Legend” age 91 passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by his family, on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. He is survived by his brother Steve, wife Joyce of 61 years, sons Jeff and Guy, daughters Tyla and Tracy.  Five grandchildren, Brooke, Michael, Hannah, Austin and Rachel and Seven great grandchildren Daniel, Dylan, Ryan, Cole, Emerson, Sophia and the newest great grandson Dean.  Richard was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 4, 1928 to Arnold and Belle Jacobs.  At a very young age they resided in Minneapolis, Minnesota where Richard grew up.  At age 17 he quit High School and joined the Marine Corp. right after World War II and was sent to China and Japan where he had his 18th birthday.  After discharge he returned to Minneapolis and was admitted to the University of Minnesota.  On his way to boot camp in San Diego he remembered when the train stopped in Phoenix, Arizona he felt the warm sunshine and the smell of orange blossoms in bloom.  At that time he thought to himself this is where he wants to live.   He started writing letters to colleges on the West Coast. He received a football scholarship at Arizona State Teachers College in Tempe, Arizona.  He had the G.I Bill to go to college so he accepted.  He played football and participated in gymnastics. The college was looking for a Mascot to become “Sparky”, so he decided to try out. He was a gymnast and performed all sorts of stunts to show them what he could do. There were others to try out, but when he walked on his hands down the steps of the stadium and did a flip over the fence onto the field, that was it and he was given the job. Dick Jacobs as Sparky became a very famous Mascot because of his dare devil tricks he performed.  He graduated in 1953 and was offered a position at the College, but after a semester he told the College he had a dream to hitchhike around the world and therefore he would not be returning to the College.  He started his journey in Tempe, Arizona with a suitcase and $300 in his pocket.  He accomplished this trip around the world and came back to Tempe, Arizona.  He kept all the pictures and notes.  He returned to Minneapolis and got a teaching and coaching job in Lester Prairie, Minnesota.  He met Joyce on a blind date and put her to work transcribing his notes from his trip around the world.  Joyce’s brother had a tape recorder so Dick used the recorder to transcribe all the notes.  She typed over 500 pages and at some point he thought he would write a book.  Joyce and Dick married on August 31, 1958.  They left Minneapolis and went to Phoenix where Dick always wanted to live.  On their 3rd Anniversary Dick gave Joyce a plaque that said “Around the World I searched for you and no more will I go around the world for I have found my World in you.”  After teaching and coaching for 10 years in the Phoenix Union School District at Carl Hayden H.S. Dick decided to take a leave of absence and take his family to Kabul, Afghanistan in 1969 to teach and coach at the American International School of Kabul.  He told Joyce would you like to go and she said sure why not, it will be a great experience for our family.  Well it was a great experience.  We met people of different nationalities and learned a lot about the Muslim religion and to this day have very special friends from Afghanistan.  We traveled as much as we could all over the countries of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.  After that two-year tour we went to Holland for four years with the American International School of the Hague and then at Islamabad, Pakistan the International School of Islamabad.  We returned to the U.S. where our two youngest children finished high school in Phoenix.  Now we were empty nesters and Dick took a job in Torreon, Mexico at a bi lingual High School named the Colegio Americano de Torreon.  He became the Superintendent of the school.  After six years we decided to build a beach house in Kino Bay, Mexico.  Before we could build, we had a severe auto accident in Mexico.  Dick was not expected to survive, but he did.  It wasn’t his time yet.  We built the house and kept it for 3 years and then sold it and returned to Phoenix.  We then retired and lived in Phoenix.  We traveled a lot throughout Mexico and Italy and enjoyed cruises.  The book was on a shelf in the garage for over 50 years when our daughter Tyla asked if we should look into publishing the book.  We did and it is called “Move Over Marco Polo”. We were really enjoying life until the dreadful diseases of dementia and alzheimers took Dick’s memory.  Dick was preceded in death by his parents, Arnold and Belle Jacobs, brother Harvey and sister Bette Van Beek.  Those memories will always live on within our family.  Dick touched so many people in his life and was loved by many.  A celebration of his life will be held in March 2020.  We love you Dad, “Papa”.  May you smile down on us today and every day and brighten our world.  “Sparky” will forever be remembered at ASU.


  • Anne VanMaele Posted February 11, 2020 12:47 PM

    He was a remarkable man and a great neighbor.

  • Tracy Posted February 11, 2020 12:57 PM

    Miss you dad ❤️

  • Mike Smith Posted February 11, 2020 2:29 PM

    What an amazing man and life story who married the right woman to build a beautiful family and life together.

  • Barbara Anderson Posted February 11, 2020 3:59 PM

    Joyce you had such an interesting life with your husband. I’m sorry for your loss and happy that he left a wonderful legacy.
    Love and my condolences

  • Billy VanBeek Posted February 11, 2020 5:45 PM

    He was a great example and a wonderful uncle. His sweet spirit will be missed. ❤️

  • Kelle VanBeek Posted February 11, 2020 8:19 PM

    Could not have asked for a more loving, supportive uncle. I am so fortunate that I had you in my life and miss you so much!

  • Sharona G Posted February 12, 2020 12:20 AM

    Tyla, I never met your dad, but loved reading all your posts on FB about his many adventures. He obviously was truly loved and admired. Im sorry for your loss. But grateful that he blessed our Earth with all his spirited adventures.

  • Jeanne Nunnelly Staron Posted February 13, 2020 9:08 AM

    RIP, Coach. You touched the lives of so many and we are all better for it.

  • Joy Schantz Posted February 14, 2020 10:32 PM

    I remember Coach Jacobs at Carl Hayden High School. He was so very positive and encouraging. RIP Coach.?God Bless his family

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