By Angela Johnson,
Not very many people experience the type of childhood in which Dad could bring home a smoking monkey to live at the house, and it really wouldn’t be all that out of the ordinary.
“That was just the kind of guy Dad was,” Dr. Ted Parks said. “He was working at a laboratory to earn some extra money during his residency. He grew very fond of one of the monkeys they were testing cigarettes on, and unable to bear the thought of its ultimate demise, he snuck it out and brought it home.”
From this type of attitude toward life, a family overflowing with intellectual curiosity and talent grew.
Dr. James Parks
Dr. James Parks, obstetrics and gynecological physician, and founder of the LaFayette Foundation, raised five children with his wife Jane. Andrea, Andy and Ted Parks live in Colorado. Cindy, a homemaker and active community and church volunteer, lives in Nebraska. Peter, Dr. Parks’ eldest son, who was a musician, passed away in 1995.
Dr. Parks was a man fascinated by aviation history, a passion that blossomed early in life. As a child, his parents ran a boarding house where numerous pilots and mechanics would stay. Parks spent his time absorbing as much of the men’s stories as he could. In 1938, he was given his first piece of what would later become a massive collection of WWI aviation memorabilia. From then on, he devoted himself to tracking down every WWI aviator he could so he could record their biographies and collect their mementos.
His efforts evolved into what is now the Colorado International Aviation Museum and LaFayette Foundation. Arguably the largest collection of WWI aviation memorabilia in the world, it includes planes, uniforms, medals and other priceless memorabilia.
According to his children, Dr. Parks was charismatic and an “out-of-the-box kind of guy.” The home in which he and his wife raised their family was always bursting with creativity and ingenuity.
“Dad was a hard guy not to like,” Ted Parks said. “His basic philosophy was that if you’re a good person who tries to do the right thing, and if you’re honest, then you’ll always land on your feet. He didn’t worry about how much money was in the bank or anything like that; he just stuck by that one principle.”
The memories Dr. Parks’ children recount reveal the kind of man he was. Ted and Andrea Parks recall the year their family spent in Germany. Their father had decided he wanted to move the entire family to Europe for a year. He taught himself to speak German, and applied to be part of a medical exchange program. He was required to prove a high level of competence for the program, and it took him a few attempts to be accepted. Eventually he was, and he and the entire family packed up and moved. His children described that year as filled with one adventure after another, spent exploring different countries and castles all across Europe.
The interests, talents and values most important to Dr. Parks and his wife were all uniquely passed on to each of their children. The Parks children, now with families of their own, are a diverse group of talented individuals. They also share special commonalities, and enduring difficult life challenges together has closely bonded them.
Andrea Parks, architectural illustrator and portrait artist, lives in Centennial with Bruce Douglas, her husband, and Emily, their 7-year-old daughter.
Specializing in hand-drawn renderings, she works with Denver-metro area home-builders and realtors to transform sterile blueprints into detailed and marketable illustrations. Pastel pencil, her chosen medium, sets her apart from the industry majority. Her use of that medium not only creates a unique look to her drawings, but also helps her keep costs down for her customers.
“I’m the only one I know of who uses pastel pencil for architectural illustrations,” Parks said. “Most everyone else in the industry uses watercolor or Prisma color markers.”
Along with architectural illustrations, Parks also draws portraits of people, animals and aircraft. She recently drew portraits of Airport Journals Entrepreneur of the Year Vern Rayburn and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Steve F. Udvar-Hazy. Those portraits were featured as covers of the December 2005 and March 2006 issues.
“I was thrilled to be associated with Airport Journals and to draw the portraits,” Parks said. “It was a privilege and an honor to meet Mr. Rayburn and Mr. Hazy and for them to be happy with my work.”
Parks earned a Bachelor of Science degree in interior environment from Colorado State University, along with a minor degree in art history and a concentration in construction management. While in college, she also studied art abroad in Vienna, Austria.
It wasn’t until four years ago that she decided to turn her talent for creating lifelike hand-drawn renderings into a business. In 2002, Andy Parks, her twin brother, approached her about assisting him with a project. He wanted her to help him design a new museum space for their father’s WWI aviation memorabilia collection he’d been managing since the passing of their father, in August 2002.
Parks created conceptual drawings of a split-level hangar, and her drawings are now a reality. The collection has its own hangar dedicated specifically to the museum at Platte Valley Airpark, outside of Fort Lupton, Colo. The aircraft are displayed on the ground floor of the hangar; the memorabilia is arranged along a walkway upstairs, overlooking the main level.
At the time, Ted Parks was facing a huge struggle. His wife lost her battle with cancer, and Andrea Parks was helping him with his daughter.
“Helping Ted and Shelby was so important to me,” she said. “We’re very close. Our daughters grew up together, and I love Shelby very much.”
When her brother remarried, Parks knew the time had come to move on. She decided to get back into her art fulltime, and to try to make a go of it professionally. As she was transitioning, she started taking photos of houses and reproducing them using pastel pencil. Her efforts soon blossomed into a booming business.
Parks has seen a recent movement in the industry away from computer-generated renderings toward drawings that have a softer feel. Her pastel pencil hand drawings are a perfect display of a subtler and more appealing look.
Small builders who wanted to market their pre-construction homes soon began to hire her. And soon after, the Kentwood Company, a high-end company that has built in The Pinery and Castle Pines subdivisions, hired her as their fulltime architectural illustrator. She now works for them on a contract basis, completing a few assignments for them each month.
“Making a color rendering from a blueprint is really involved,” Parks said. “Taking something sterile and making it lifelike, while at the same time accurate, is very rewarding.”
It wasn’t too long before Parks decided to broaden her horizons. Desiring to get into many different aspects of the market, she began drawing portraits. She started by drawing people and eventually moved on to include drawing animals and aircraft.
Her portraits have a strikingly true and realistic quality to them. It can be difficult to discern her work from the original photograph, if not for the fact that it has a greater depth of feeling to it. It’s probably partially because of this that many clients come to her after losing a cherished pet and want her to immortalize it for them.
“I think people appreciate the realism and detail I lend when I draw their loved ones,” Parks said. “I hear over and over again that I ‘really captured their spirit,’ and I often have people cry when they get their portraits.”
Parks acknowledges how instrumental the support of her siblings has been in growing her business. She and her siblings have faced many challenges in recent years; the most painful has been the loss of a significant number of family members in a short amount of time.
“Ted and Andy have been so instrumental in my life, not only personally, but professionally as well,” Parks said. “To have their support and validation has really helped me to be where I am today.”
Parks plans to continue doing architectural illustrations and portraits in the future. She especially looks forward to drawing more portraits such as that of Udvar-Hazy. She also hopes to keep expanding her talent to different areas. She’s currently working on a mural painting of a private aircraft, on the wall of the hangar where the aircraft is stored. She’s always excited to try new mediums and take on new challenges—something her dad always instilled in her and her siblings.
Dr. Ted Parks
Dr. Ted Parks lives in Denver with his wife, Healy, and their two children, 9-year-old Shelby and 10-month-old Hudson.
The surgeon practices medicine at Western Orthopaedics, with a specialty in advanced arthroscopic reconstruction of the knee and shoulder. His expertise includes knee, hip and shoulder reconstruction, as well as sports medicine and arthroscopy. He also has a professorship through the University of Colorado and teaches medical residents about orthopedic surgery.
“Teaching is such a big part of what I go to work for everyday,” Parks said. “It’s extremely rewarding.”
The students who shadow this doctor while he works are learning from the best. He’s been featured in 5280 Magazine’s Top Docs issue for five years running, and received the magazine’s award for best surgeon in his field. He also applies his teaching skills to his fellow physicians. He’s been asked to speak at the American College of Physicians for four years in a row.
Medicine isn’t the only thing keeping this Parks busy. He’s also an avid inventor. One of his inventions has been patented and sold and is now on the market. The GameBike connects to videogame machines to make exercising and gaming an interactive experience. Parks’ boredom with the monotony of his stationary bike inspired the idea. The speed at which the rider pedals, and the direction in which they steer, control the speed and direction of the player in any driving or riding game it’s hooked up to.
Parks is always working on new creations, including building an annual race craft to participate in KBCO’s Boulder Kinetics Race. The event is a five-mile race over land and water in which competitors race homemade, man-powered vehicles. Not all of his entries were successes though. In fact, Parks is the first to admit that one in particular was a “dismal failure.” But he won the Master Builder Award at the 2002 race, and he plans to enter again this May.
As if being a doctor, inventor, husband and father aren’t enough to fill Parks’ days, he also manages to find time for his hobby—oil painting. With a mother who enjoyed oil painting as a hobby, Parks grew up around art. While he didn’t have much interest in it as a child (he was far more interested in taking things apart and figuring out how they worked), he developed an appreciation and a talent for it in college. Today he does oil painting portraits. Most recently, he completed a portrait of Dr. Fred Teal, his long-time mentor and the senior partner of Western Orthopaedics. This portrait will soon hang in their medical office, upon Teal’s retirement.
“Dr. Teal has done so much for me,” Parks said. “He really was such a great mentor. It was a real treat to be able to do this painting for him.”
Parks received both a B.A. and master’s degree in biological sciences from Stanford University, and then his M.D. from Yale Medical School. Following his graduation from Yale, he completed an internship and orthopedic residency at UCLA. Parks was drawn to medicine by a passion he has always had for dissecting things and understanding how they work—an interest inspired and nourished by his father.
“The most amazing machine is the human body,” Parks said. “To have the privilege to work on that machine is really amazing.”
Parks has endured a great deal of challenges in his life. The loss of his first wife to pancreatic cancer, along with the loss of both of his parents to Alzheimer’s and the loss of his brother Peter have been paramount hardships he has overcome. As his sister acknowledges, he also feels that the adversity they have endured together as siblings has brought them all closer than ever before. Like each of the Parks siblings, he’s thankful they can depend on each other.
In the future, Parks plans to continue practicing medicine, teaching, inventing and painting. He currently has his sights set on learning more about alternative fuel. He’d like to experiment with it more, and eventually try to contribute something to the development of alternative fuel motors.
Andy Parks, museum director of the nonprofit LaFayette Foundation, lives in Highlands Ranch with his wife, Michelle, and their three children, 8-year-old Lexie, 3-year-old Colton and 1-year-old Carter.
Parks has been running the Colorado International Aviation Museum and the LaFayette Foundation, founded by his father, for the past 10 years. The museum houses Dr. Parks’ extensive collection of WWI aviation history, containing the memorabilia donated by WWI pilots. The museum also includes a collection of vintage planes.
“The goal of the museum to bring aviation history to life,” Parks said. “We want to give people the chance to really experience the stories and history of the aircraft, and the people who flew the aircraft, in a tangible way.”
The museum accomplishes this by providing a “living history” setting in which visitors can experience not only the stories, but also the sights, sounds and feel of aviation throughout time. Museum tourists can even take part in flying demonstrations.
The collection of airworthy replica aircraft housed at the museum is a big draw for visitors. The planes have been built or restored by the museum’s volunteer crew, or they’ve been donated. The collection currently has a 1917 Fokker DRI, a 1918 Fokker DVII, a 1918 Fokker DVIII and two 7/8 scaled SE5a aircraft. Four other aircraft are currently in the works. Every Saturday, the museum gives tours and does air shows with the planes. The men who volunteer their time building and restoring the aircraft offer rides in the planes and are currently restoring a 1930 Great Lakes biplane. The aircraft will be used for giving rides when it’s finished.
Out of all the children in their family, Parks was the one who most shared his father’s passion for preserving aviation history. Parks explains that he was very fortunate to be around his dad when he was learning and discovering the history first-hand. Through his father, he was able to meet the men and women who were alive during WWI, hear them recount their stories and see the memorabilia they entrusted to Dr. Parks to preserve and protect.
He was even able to go to Paris with his father in 1981 to attend a reunion that Dr. Parks co-chaired for the surviving aces of WWI. Andy Parks was in attendance the day 45 aces from different countries gathered.
“That was a neat experience for me,” Parks said. “I was only 19 at the time; because of that, I think the men were very informal with me. I got to have some phenomenal conversations with the people you usually only read about in history books.”
As a child, Parks also helped his father build a Fokker DVII, which they started in 1971 and finished in 1979.
“I helped Dad build the Fokker, but I most certainly can’t take credit for its construction,” Parks said. “I was just the little guy who held all the parts.”
Parks refinished the Fokker DVII a few years ago. That’s the plane he’s been flying for the past few years.
Keeping the museum alive has been a constant challenge for Parks. The collection depends solely on donations from the community. All of the money donated goes directly back into maintaining the collection. Parks has always struggled to understand how an asset of such pertinent and valuable historical significance should have such trouble securing funding from sources such as the government. He concedes that military history (other than WWII history) isn’t very well funded.
“My greatest fear is that, for some reason, we’d have to get rid of the collection,” Parks said. “We promised the people who donated artifacts to the collection that we’d never let that happen. I feel very obligated to tell these men’s stories, and maintain it as a complete collection.”
As he looks to the future, Parks is excited about plans to expand to a larger display space. The museum currently has such an abundance of material that in order to display it all and tell the stories as Parks would like to, it will demand more space. Fortunately, in May the foundation was awarded the grant they had been hoping for. The Charles and June Gates Family Fund is sponsoring the LaFayette Foundation in a three-phase program, for $1.5 million, to build a major aviation museum at Platte Valley Airport. It will be a thorough collection of WWI, WWII, general aviation and military aviation history. Parks also hopes to build an interactive children’s aviation museum.
Parks is quick to express his admiration for his siblings, much the same as they are for him. He feels especially lucky to have grown up with Andrea (or “Erna,” as he and his brother both affectionately call her) as his twin sister. He feels that as they get older he can still seek her advice the way he did when they were children, and that it has become especially important since losing their parents.
Ask any of the Parks siblings and they will tell you that each of them inherited a different piece of their parents’ own remarkable lives and followed that thread.
“I think Ted, Erna, Cindy and I each have talents that we got from Mom and Dad,” Andy Parks said. “Mine just happened to be the interest that my dad had in history and aviation. Andrea’s a great artist, and Ted’s a great doctor. I always recommend them to all my friends.”
While they may have each inherited their own distinctive abilities and interests from their parents, they all share common threads: independence, an intellectual curiosity and a desire to try new things without fear.
“Yes, if Dad were here today, he’d be really happy about everything we’ve achieved,” Ted Parks said. “But, I know that he wouldn’t be boastful about our accomplishments. Dad was always reminding us not to take our successes or our failures too seriously. He’d just be glad to see the happiness we get from what we do.”
More information can be found at [http://www.andreaparks.com], [http://www.lafayettefoundation.org], [http://www.western-ortho.com] and [http://www.gamebike.com].