Though Williams said his death obviously saddened her, "I try to focus on the pride I felt in him."
In a 2008 profile in The Times Tribune, which covers southeastern Kentucky, Sparkman talked about juggling school, work, chemotherapy treatments and being a single father to a teenage son.
"I know a lot of people were out there praying for me, and I have no doubt that it was a mixture of God's will, the doctors, and my friends and family that got me through this," he told the newspaper.
The teachers and students at Johnson Elementary School were stunned by the news and are now grieving for their friend.
"He was always where he's supposed to be when he was supposed to be," Family Resource Director Gilbert Accairdo said. "We have the same questions that everybody does, you know? What happened to Mr. Sparkman?"
Accairdo said that he had spoken to Sparkman several times about being careful on his home visits.
"Whenever you do home visits, you don't know how people are going to perceive you," he said, "and if you work for the government, you don't know how people are going to perceive you."
But why Sparkman was even in that remote part of the national park is something police are still investigating.
"They have no idea either on what was going on with this situation, why he would have been in that area," state trooper Trosper said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.