Thomas A. Parks, 86, died peacefully Sept. 9, 2016, from complications of Parkinson's disease.
Funeral services will be 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, at First Congregational Church, with visitation from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at Cedar Memorial Park Chapel of Memories Stateroom. Private family interment will take place at Oak Shade Cemetery in Marion.
Tom was born Nov. 4, 1929, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to a single mother and was placed in an orphanage. He was taken in by Jon and Marion Parks and became a part of their family at the age
of 4. When Tom was 7 years old, Marion Parks died and Tom moved to Iowa to live with his uncle and aunt, Floyd and Gladys Parks, and their three daughters. He would ride the train each year to spend his summers with Jon Parks in Ohio. Tom was legally adopted by Floyd and Gladys Parks at the age
of 42 in 1971.
Tom graduated from Maquoketa High School in 1946. He studied music and teaching at Iowa State Teachers College (UNI) for two years and was told he was not "teacher material" and encouraged to transfer to the University of Iowa, which he did. He met Anne Meek at the University of Iowa and they were married.
His education was interrupted when he joined the Air Force during the Korean conflict. He was a navigator who flew long-range missions out of Sacramento, Calif., aboard B-29s that tracked weather and performed classified reconnaissance missions out over the Pacific.
Tom (with his wife, Anne) returned to Iowa City after the Air Force, with a fascination for global affairs. He was one of six original graduates in international relations from the University of Iowa. Tom was one of three individuals who organized and ran the international sales division for Collins Radio which began his lifelong love of international travel. He then joined Amana Refrigeration and traveled the world establishing a network of Amana distributors.
Tom and Anne had a son, David, and a daughter, Sandra.
In 1962, Tom joined Cedar Rapids Engineering Co. (Kwik-Way) on a two-year consulting agreement to establish an international sales division. He became vice president of sales in 1965 and was elected president of the company in 1969. Tom and a partner then purchased the company from the founding family and his two-year consulting agreement became a lifetime career as president, CEO and chairman of Kwik-Way Industries Inc., the successor company to Cedar Rapids Engineering.
His career took a toll on his personal life and his marriage to Anne ended in divorce. He married Judy Reed and helped raise his stepdaughter, Michelle. He again divorced and married Mary K. Hindman and adopted a daughter, Muriah.
Tom also was a partner in Linn-Aire Properties and senior associate at State Public Policy Group (Des Moines), which is active in several states on public policy matters.
Because of Tom's active involvement and expertise in export sales, he asked to consult with both the state of Iowa and the U.S. government. He worked with the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on matters of reciprocal trade and trade agreements. He published articles on international trade and also worked with the U.S. Senate on issues of aging and pensions which included testifying at hearings.
His Iowa efforts included participating in developing programs in the areas of economic development and education, chairing the Legislature's World Trade Institute Study Committee and serving as chairman of Iowa Economic Development Initiative.
Tom has chaired the Legislature's World Trade Advisory Committee, its international economic effort and various other international initiatives. In the 1960s, he authored a study of the economic impact of the then-new St. Lawrence Seaway upon Iowa. As chairman of the Foreign Trade Bureau of the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce, he represented the Cedar Rapids area in appearances before the Ways & Means Committee in the 1950s, when Iowa was just beginning to think about being an active participant in world trade, a role until then played principally by the Cedar Rapids business community. He also authored and presented, before a worldwide symposium in France, a study of engine rebuilding industry's future. That study was later published in a significant industry publication. He also traveled with Gov. Robert Ray and area business leaders to promote trade for Iowa.
Tom also had a passion for community involvement. His involvement included the University of Iowa and the College of Public Health study of statewide mental health issues. He served as past chairman or board member of Hawkeye Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, BSA District chairman, Youth For Christ, trustee of Coe College, original board of Linn County Empowerment and was past president of Cedar Rapids Symphony Association. As chairman of United Way's 1972 Capital Campaign, Tom successfully achieved the first million-dollar campaign. He was instrumental in the creation of Inn Circle (interagency effort providing housing, education and employment for single homeless mothers) and also served as an executive committee member of YMCA Capital Fund Campaign.
Tom's advocative focus had been upon the needs of children in Iowa. He served as a trustee of the Children's Home of Cedar Rapids. Tom had the vision to build the current Tanager Place campus, and with his leadership and perseverance, raised the money from the community and state to make that happen. He was director emeritus of Tanager Place. He served on the board of the Child and Family Policy Center (Des Moines), Community Corrections Improvement Association of the Sixth Judicial District, sponsor of SAFE Families Coalition, Youth Leadership Program and Youth Peer Court.
He also had received recognition for "Outstanding Volunteer Service" to the Sixth Judicial District, Department of Corrections, for his efforts in the Community Corrections Improvement Association.
In 2004, Tom received the Rockwell Collins "Volunteer Child Advocate Award," which recites "Honoring those who apply their vision, wisdom and energy to improve the lives of Iowa's children." Tom's many community involvements over the years reflected his belief that a community is only as vibrant and healthy as the way it supports its most vulnerable. He felt fortunate that many individuals in Cedar Rapids support that with their actions.
Tom also was a member of the Downtown Rotary and Cedar Rapids Country Club for over 60 years. He also was a 60-plus-year member of First Congregational Church and sang tenor in the choir.
The four important things to Tom were God, family and friends, children's welfare and music.
Tom loved his time at Bay Lake, Minn. For over 60 years, he help teach hundreds of kids how to ski, how to hang on for dear life to an inner tube, how to catch (and release) turtles with a net and just have fun playing kick-the-can with all the kids. His perfect week would include "time on the water," golf with friends, a good game of tennis, waterskiing, burning a few hamburgers and, somewhere in there, having a glass of Scotch and storytelling about his adventures around the globe.
Tom is survived by his loving wife of 28 years, Mary K. Hindman; children, David (Jean), Sandra Duncan, Michelle (Mike) Woode and Muriah Mikolajczak; grandchildren, Zachary Ritchie, Nicholas Parks, Tanner Parks, Jason Wadlington, Alexis Woode, Mercedes Woode and Jacklyn Mikolajczak. He also is survived by his sisters, Marian Hjelmfelt, Norma Jensen and Carolyn Parks; and two special friends, Bob Kazimour and Paul Phelan.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Floyd and Gladys Parks; his sister, Lois Mitchell; and his special cat, Gata.
Tom received loving care from Comfort Care, Cottage Grove Health Center and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's Hospital. Dr. Payvandi, cardiologist, also is to be thanked for his care. Tom lived life to its fullest.
Donations may be made to First Congregational United Church of Christ, Tanager Place, Cedar Rapids Symphony or a charity of the donor's choice.
Online condolences may be conveyed at www.cedarmemorial.com.