Cover photo for James William Parks's Obituary
James William Parks Profile Photo
1931 James 2024

James William Parks

November 24, 1931 — January 24, 2024

James William Parks passed away unexpectedly on January 24, 2024, at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado, with family by his side.

Jim was born on November 24, 1931, in Jonesville, Louisiana, to James William Parks and Catherine Elaine Bennett Parks. He was later joined by a brother, Henry Bennett Parks, who sadly died of leukemia when he was a young child. Jim spent his youth in the small town in Catahoula Parish in central Louisiana as a typical boy, swimming in the lakes and bayous around his home, camping, squirrel hunting, playing any sport available with relatives and other local kids, and getting into trouble with his dog, Rhett. His mother used to say if she couldn’t find Jim, she’d walk downtown and look for Rhett, sleeping outside whatever building Jim was in.

When Jim was 12, his father passed away, and Jim spent the next few years living with his mother, his grandmother Lina and his Aunt Hattie, in the house on First Street in downtown Jonesville. His mother remarried two years later to Robert Emerson, who became Jim’s stepfather. At 16, Jim graduated from Block High School in Jonesville and went to Southeastern Louisiana College in Hammond, to play basketball. After one year there, he transferred to LSU in Baton Rouge to study geology and paleontology. For a time, he lived in the student dorms under the athletic stadium, where his neighbor was the school mascot, a bengal tiger named Mike.

After graduating from LSU in 1953, he was drafted into the army where he spent most of his service time at Fort Carson, Colorado. Upon discharge, one of his LSU professors recommended him for a job at Standard Oil as a paleontologist in Houston. There, his roommate had been dating a girl from Victoria, Texas. Her best friend from Victoria was also living in Houston, and she introduced Jim to Janet Baass, who would become his wife on June 21, 1959.

The new couple soon had two children, Gillian Elaine and William Randall (Randy), both born in Houston. Not long after, Jim’s position at Standard Oil saw him transferred to New Orleans, and there the new family set up roots. Several years later, another transfer was in the works, and in 1969, the Parks family moved to Littleton, Colorado, where their last child, Polly Catherine, was born. Jim continued to work his way up in the company, now Amoco Production Company, until he became the head of a group of paleontologists in the Denver office. Throughout his working years, he played handball obsessively.

After accepting an offer of early retirement in 1989, Jim and Janet began the next chapter of their lives, which would consist mostly of traveling the world and spending time with their growing group of grandchildren. Their travels included trips to the UK, Italy, France, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Tahiti, the Caribbean, Canada and South America, and nearly every state in the US on their famous driving trips. He continued his lifelong habit of exercise, adding golf, weightlifting and an occasional “step” class to his repertoire. He had a strong interest in history, and he also volunteered at the Denver Museum of Natural History in the dinosaur lab. Keeping his mind sharp and his body healthy was a hobby for Jim, and it served him well throughout his life.

In June 2019, Jim and Janet celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, Janet passed away five months later. He spent his later years making friends in his new neighborhood of Gleneagles Village, in Douglas County, where he also enjoyed taking long two-mile walks and sitting on his back porch, watching the birds and animals that lived near the creek and golf course behind his home.

Jim and Janet had three children: Gillian Hartman (Kevin Widlic), Randy Parks (Kathy) who passed away in February 2022, and Polly Parks. He is also survived by three grandchildren – Tessa Sutton (Randy), Carly Austin (Brendon), and Casey Parks-Garcia (Kylee) – and six great-grandchildren.

A family burial will be held at Fort Logan National Cemetery on February 2, 2024. A Celebration of Life and reception will take place afterwards starting at 10:30 am at Horan & McConaty in Centennial.

To make a donation to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in memory of Jim Parks, please visit dmns.org/support

To send flowers to the family in memory of James William Parks, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Friday, February 2, 2024

10:30 - 11:00 am (Mountain (no DST) time)

Horan & McConaty Funeral Service and Cremation - South Metro/Centennial

5303 E County Line Rd, Centennial, CO 80122

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