Our hero slipped into his final peaceful sleep on Monday, June 13, 2022, at his tranquil High Rock Lake home – his Sweet Escape — near Lexington, NC.
Doctors gave Sonny no more than nine months to live when he was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2013. Sonny didn’t so much fight cancer as he ignored its menace and lived life to its fullest for eight and a half years following the devastating diagnosis. Years of cancer treatment so weakened him that his body simply failed his own expectations.
Sonny’s vital life force, decisive leadership, compassion, mentoring, radiant love, and so much more, are all far more meaningful than his inevitable death. Everyone who knew him – those of us who loved him as well as acquaintances of a few moments — reveled in the brilliant vitality of his infinite zest for life. Sonny’s raucous laughter could fill a stadium with its peals of joy in the moment. He told entertaining stories for every occasion with utter delight. Sonny’s light was brightest when he shone it on others – he was thrilled to mentor all of us into becoming even more than we could be. He thoroughly relished helping others.
Sonny’s deceased parents, Worth Alfred Sweet, Senior, and Rachel Williams Sweet, were role models for his incredible life of service. His distinguished Army career began humbly as a Private at Fort Jackson, SC, in 1961, and concluded when he retired in 1992 as a highly decorated Full Colonel in the Army’s Military Intelligence branch. The Army so valued Sonny’s service that they sent him to the University of Kansas to obtain his Master’s in History as well as to the Air War College. Sonny, a Vietnam Combat Veteran, commanded at every level through Brigade, and developed training innovations that became Army-wide practices. He truly loved soldiers, and soared with opportunities to serve them. He always said that his favorite assignment was with the 101st Airborne Division – he was so proud of his Screaming Eagles.
Sonny’s focus on selfless service continued when he came back to his beloved NC mountains as the Director of Watauga County’s Red Cross Chapter in 1995. His considerable contributions to Boone and Watauga County included leadership in Henson Chapel United Methodist Church, Boone Kiwanis, Mountaineer Ruritans, the High Country Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (he helped start our MOAA Chapter), and Meals on Wheels. He helped initiate several continuing local events, such as Boone’s 4th of July Parade, MOAA’s Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day celebrations, and the Blood, Sweat and Gears bicycle ride. His comprehensive disaster planning was rivalled only by his personal dedication to helping both first responders and victims across all types of catastrophic events. Sonny was overjoyed to give back to his community and to give the credit for any successes to others.
Sonny’s greatest joy emerged in his boundless love for his family. He treasured his three sons, Jonathan (Sonia), Nathan, and Brandt Sweet, and his daughter, Brianna Swartz (Joshua). He cherished his three granddaughters, Rebecca Sweet, Taylor Swartz, and Alyssa Swartz, and is also survived by his grandson, Steven Sweet. Sonny loved to laugh with his younger brother, Edward Sweet (Eileen). Sonny’s fierce love for Sonny wanted to persist in helping others once he became ill and he hoped to continue helping beyond his own death. Rather than flowers, the family would appreciate donations to Western Youth Network’s Sonny Sweet Scholarship Fund (WYN’s SSSF) at 155 WYN Way, Boone, NC 28607 (https://donorbox.org/wyn_online_donation).
his wife, Bricca Sweet, was unparalleled.
We will host our Celebration of A Hero’s Life on what would have been Sonny’s 83rd birthday, July 14, 2022, at Appalachian State’s Grandview Ballroom, 135 Jack Branch Drive, Boone, NC 28608, 10 am to 12 noon. You will be directed to parking. Help us celebrate Sonny — wear bright colors and prepare (if so moved) to briefly share a funny story or fond memory during these magical moments honoring Sonny’s sheer happiness and radiant love.
Be sure to smile when you think of Sonny Sweet, and reach your hand with love, kindness, and help to another human being. Hold dear what an honor it is to have known and shared love with such an incredible man!