The greatness of Jim Parks
If you had tried to tell Jim Parks that he was a great man he would probably have laughed quietly and politely in your face. He might say greatness was not a quality he kept company with.
He was, after all, a mechanic, a motorcycle dealer and a Navy veteran, not a senator or a president or a captain of industry.
But if you poke around the language for a guide to what makes someone great, you quickly discover the condition has nothing to do with fame, immense wealth or political power. It has to do with perseverance, with commitment, with repetition, with practice and the determination never to quit.
When Jim Parks made a decision it wasn’t in him to quit. When he wanted a suitable burial site for his beloved wife, Evelyn, he proposed and persisted until the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park was a reality. Then he refocused that persistence on the creation of a suitable monument to carry the names of all Sonoma’s war dead. The project took shape, the stunning Star of Honor was conceived and designed, but the money ran out.
So Jim gathered his children and asked them how they would feel if he took his life savings – more than $200,000, their inheritance – and spent it on the monument. They said do it, so he did, and it stands today, not only a tribute to all those Sonomans who have given their lives for their country, but a tribute to the greatness of Jim Parks, the man who persisted and persevered until the job was done.
But that wasn’t the only job Jim wanted to finish. His next project was aimed at identifying and recognizing the private cemeteries where 23-million American veterans are or will be buried. So he designed a special flag – a five-point star – not unlike the monument star he championed – traveling across a field of green at the head of a procession of 13 gold strars, with the simple declaration, “Veterans Remembered,” printed in the border.
Jim’s dream was to have that flag fly at every cemetery in the land where a veteran is buried. So far, 16 states have passed resolutions recognizing the Veterans Remembered flag, and so has the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation and the American Legion.
Jim passed away on Tuesday before the job was done. But we can all help him finish it by lending our voices to the cause. Go to veteransrememberedflag.com for everything you need to know about the project, and to get your own Veterans Remembered flag.
Then wave it proudly on the Fourth of July, on the next Veterans Day, Memorial Day or any day you feel like celebrating the life of a great man, Jim Parks.