A personal thank you to Jim Parks
With the recent death of World War II veteran Jim Parks, and his recognition on the CBS Evening News, in the Index-Tribune and in the Press Democrat, I would also like to express my deepest gratitude for Mr. Parks, his supportive family, and his co-visionaries in their creation of the Sonoma Veterans’ Cemetery. It is a special place.
I recall when the invitation went out through the Index-Tribune to all veterans and active duty personnel from the Valley to attend the official dedication of the cemetery on Memorial Day 2005, in full uniform if possible. I quickly called our son, Tim, at Fort Benning, Ga., and wondered if he could possibly make it out for the ceremonies. Mom and Dad even offered to pay, as young soldiers are chronically broke, and combat pay is about an extra $7 per day.
As his proud mom, all I really wanted to do was stand quietly next to him in his uniform and show him off a bit. But the news came back that it was too close to the scheduled leave for his unit, and he couldn’t come out.
Memorial Day 2005 was lovely, the ceremonies memorable, and I missed our son fiercely.
Three months later, however, we buried our beloved Tim in that very same peaceful cemetery that Mr. Parks had envisioned and so painstakingly brought to fruition. Tim is now surrounded by people he knew growing up, and by other Sonoma heroes like Kevin Norman. We were grateful to have a lovely place close by to bring him home.
Over the years, the cemetery has been a place of refuge for us. My husband stops by Tim’s grave almost daily on his way to work and brings flowers, and each night the marauding deer from the hills around the cemetery pick them clean. I can stand at his grave and turn and see Tim’s life around me. Long ago, in the parking lot between the cemetery and the veterans building, I taught Tim to drive a stick shift in our tiny red Ford Festiva. I can also look out to the Little League fields and Arnold Field where Tim played ball. I count my blessings, in spite of our loss.
I know other families feel the same, for the cemetery has become a place of surprising activity. I remember too an older widow, who struggled for years to create the right headstone inscription for her beloved husband, and who also advised me on how best to keep the headstones shiny with a certain household cleanser.
Hikers from the Overlook Trail and the cross-country track team from Sonoma High regularly pass by. On occasion we have also found little mementos from other visitors, ranging from beer bottles (they understand a young soldier’s predilections) to stuffed animals to cards and flowers. The cemetery workers, too, have come to know us and watch out for us, just in case. ??
Finally, one cannot discount the confluence of memory and place and its importance to us as a community. Part of the human condition is to honor and remember, and Mr. Parks so well understood that. I don’t know where we would be as a family if we didn’t have this special place for Tim and all Sonoma veterans.
Thank you, Mr. Parks. We have truly benefited from your vision.