August 30, 2020 – An email from Frank E. Rose, who lived with us long enough I think of him as a big brother.
Obituary: Bob Parks
To those who loved Robert Lee Parks, my lifelong best friend. Following are some memories , probably 97% of which are valid. Frank E. Rose
As preschoolers Bob, about aged 3 or 4 and I was 5 or 6 we met at Eureka Lake Park, the Kansas Conference Camp Ground of Free Methodism. Kansas Governor Alfred Landon, visited and gave a speech while destroying a red rose, one petal at a time representing the sequence of destructive acts that he claimed Roosevelt was doing. This speech was memorable and probably stimulated the use of object lessons in my father’s ministry that eventually took him to all 48 States.
After Landon’s speech he greeted all who joined a long line. Julian joined the line repeatedly and shook hands with Landon 3 times.
Bob’s grandfather, B. R. Parks, was the Kansas Conference supervisor of ministers that included my father. I recall his periodic visits to our home.
When we visited McPherson we were happy to visit the Warner Parks creamery that had a first-class ice cream counter and each of us were given an exceptional ice cream cone.
In early August of 1944, I assisted Merill and Nettie Perkins in a C Y C camp at Oregon, Wisconsin which Bob attended from Racine. On an excursion in the Perkins open air “trailboat” to visit a cavern near Madison, David, a 4-year old guest, was worried that the wind would blow his hair off when he stood up.
As Spring Arbor Academy new students, Bob and I were quartered at “Baker House” on Marietta Street. I was appointed to tend the furnace. I did such a poor job that Dick Henderson soon took over.
As new students at SA, Bob and I had received no grade reports yet so we were assigned a daily one-hour mandatory study session in the library of “Old Main” with Allene Bouck (later, Jackson) in charge. Bob sat on my right at a large table.
In his boredom Bob devised a plan which we followed. He stood up and began to walk behind me just as I also arose, pushing my chair back in Bob’s way. He immediately executed a noisy and disruptive tumble over my chair in a fall of which Dick VanDyke would be proud. It took a while before Allene could restore order.
In Jackson I watched Bob fight in a Golden Gloves bout. Later, in the S.A. gym I watched Bob deck George Dawson in a boxing challenge by the larger George. This made great campus news for Bob.
SA students ate family-style in the basement of Muffit dormitory in seats that were assigned periodically. The Dean of Women, Georgia Babcock sought to establish and maintain a formal and dignified atmosphere that was not easily accepted by all, especially the High School boys.
At one meal, during the opening prayer when eyes were closed, Bob quietly took a live dollar-sized turtle from his shirt pocket and inserted it into his glass of milk. Then, a moment later he “discovered” the turtle and made a great “Bob Parks commotion” over the turtle. Word spread to neighboring tables. Soon the dining room was in an uproar.
Miss Babcock was never quite the same thereafter.
Nevertheless, Bob was the school’s bread baker. On a Saturday afternoon I visited Bob as he mixed flour, water, salt, and yeast in a very large round aluminum pan. He rolled and kneaded the dough, then set it aside to rise while he produced the next batch. I visited with Bob as he worked.
The prettiest High School girl often visited Bob and he expected her visit soon. So he asked me to hide in the bottom compartment of the large cabinet where he kept the pans. Presently, she showed up to visit Bob. Soon he asked her to get a pan from that bottom compartment where I was hiding. When she reached in, I grabbed her wrist. She screamed and I let her loose. Thereafter, neither of us were ever very comfortable in a kitchen.
Bob made and flew several unusual kites. Perhaps this led to his building, flying, crashing, and repairing several radio-controlled model airplanes … before this became a military activity.
Bob and I went to Jackson to follow a want ad for a beautiful red Harley Davidson-61 motorcycle. He bought it for $600, probably advanced with reluctance by Warner. Soon I borrowed the old bike of Stan Carlisle who lived at Videto’s near the SA water tower. We made several loud backfire noises by riding downhill with sparks retarded between the Whiteman and Dowley homesteads.
We regretted losing Johnny Dawson on the three-lane Highway 12 east of Jackson when he started to pass a car which made a left turn in front of him. John is buried under a U.S. flag in the SA cemetery.
But I was not with Bob when he was returning from Lapeer and crashed on Hwy 78 at “Shaw’s Corner” East of Lansing. Bob survived but never again was the strapping youth of his earlier days. Just before polio vaccine was developed, Bob caught the bulbar type that affected him seriously thereafter.
I gave Bob a working telephone built as a model red Harley 61 like his was. He gave me a Shick electric shaver kit which I treasured.
After my discharge from the Navy in mid-July of 1946, the Parks family took me in until SA opened its Veterans Dormitory above the campus furnace in September. I slept in a bed above upstairs in a new garage behind the Parks home. Warner commanded that his daughters under no circumstance go up to my nest, and none ever did!
Bob and I worked for Ben Scram scrubbing the floor and painting the casement windows of Central Auto and we used their old station wagon. I am very grateful for the bedroom but also to Mildred for the daily lunches she prepared for us; she was a great mother to me. We also worked at Ben’s house and at their lakeside cabin and we worked at the home of Ben’s father who was president of Jackson’s Michigan National Bank. The next June he lent me $200 as I prepared to marry. Warner cosigned for that loan.
One evening Bob and I went to Lime Lake, borrowed a boat which I rowed across the lake to a gently sloping bank where we camped. Bob was a very good swimmer but I steered the boat near him. We spread blankets and watched the spectacular Perseid meteor shower that lasted all night.
In mid-winter of 1947 a great snowstorm stranded all traffic on M-60 at SA including 3 Chicago to -Detroit Greyhound busses. SA people volunteered to keep the passengers overnight. A few weeks later Greyhound gladly provided a 37 passenger bus for their one-week Spring A Capella Choir tour. Members included the 3 Rose siblings, an unique event.
Bob engineered a ride for me on a greased sow thru a barbed wire fence on the Dorman farm near Snover. Fortunately, I fell off just before the fence encounter. Bob and I shopped many stores seeking a belt with a western buckle for the driver, Glen Hood.
We first met Jean Chatson soon after she and Bob were married. They lived in a little house behind his parent’s house. She was a Canadian PK, a good pianist, and skilled story-teller. They spent a few years living in Sandusky where Bob covered the Thumb for the Port Huron Times Herald as their reporter and photographer, specializing, perhaps inadvertently, in barn fires! We were pleased when Bob became a photographer for the Flint Journal and they moved to Flint, much closer to us.
Jean bore three children: Gary a military electronics specialist, Brian a dealer in antiques, and Judy, an accomplished figure skater, a Registered Nurse with national contributions to burn treatment. I recall Judy’s visit to me at UM Flint when she was distraught about current academic developments in her schooling—and I sought to encourage her. She is a winner! Bob’s kids were reared in Flint before the leaded water problems.
Warren Shaw, Bob and I were a very close-nit trio. Warren had remarkable eyesight so he saw in the woods and in the air much game while Bob remembered such sights and sounds with great accuracy and I was grateful when they let me tag along as a quality controller. Byron Hosmer also was an accomplice.
When Gov. Millikan visited Flint, Bob arranged for me to meet him privately; Bob photographed us!
Bob became a skilled woodworker, producing large salad bowls and artistic vases which he marketed nationally. We treasure and display a beautiful vase that is displayed in our parlor.
When I married Florence Reid on June 18, 1948, in Pontiac, my brother, Julian stood up with me but Bob was my main confidant. As the church allowed no serving of food, the reception was at the YWCA. Attending included Bill Reid, Harold Hall, Homer Jackson, and Ken Kaufman, my Greenville roommate. I expected some newlywed pranks from them, so I had Bob hide our honeymoon car in a nearby garage. Just as we left the reception, Bob drove up, and we left with no further incident, thanks to Bob!
Ralph played the trumpet very well in the Central High School band. As a senior he was their drum major. The big and final football game, with Flint Northern was on Thanksgiving afternoon of 1983 in Atwood Stadium. Ralph’s grandma, age 90, had never seen a football game so she attended this game, won by Central in a last-minute touchdown by the one-handed quarterback, Jim Abbot. Bob had arranged for a Flint Journal coverage of this senior’s attendance but other events crowded out this printing. Frank explained the game to Florence’s mother as it developed and they enjoyed seeing Ralph lead the band at halftime.
Conclusion: Bob Parks was an ever faithful once-in-a-lifetime friend. Thank you, Bob, forever! 30/30