Longtime Bayfield resident Henry Elbert Parks died Friday, April 6, 2012, at his home. He was three weeks shy of his 90th birthday.
Mr. Parks was born to Calvin and Pearl Parks on April 27, 1922, north of Bayfield. When he was 19, he joined the Army and served with the 83rd Division of Ohio.
During World War II, he fought at Omaha Beach on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge in the European Theater. After suffering from frostbite on his feet and legs, Mr. Parks was hospitalized for 21 days before traveling home from Ireland on the Queen Mary with 10,000 other soldiers.
Upon returning from the war, he went to work on the family ranch in the Pine River Valley, where his grandparents homesteaded.
In 1949, he married Marybell Neil at her parents’ home in Ignacio, and the couple had seven children.
Mr. Parks ranched in between working different jobs all of his life. He worked for the Vanadium Corporation of America in Durango during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Before returning to Bayfield to take care of his cousin’s ranch, he was the ranch foreman for Dr. Hugh Williamson beginning in 1963 for two years.
In 1967, Mr. Parks began operating heavy equipment for the La Plata County Road and Bridge Department. Retiring in 1985, he went to work full-time taking care of the family ranch in Gem Village.
“Henry was a gifted horseman and cherished his horses and mules,” his family said.
Mr. Parks enjoyed going on pack trips to Emerald Lakes, where he enjoyed fly-fishing and prospecting for gold. He was a longtime member of the Colorado Mounted Rangers, serving in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Henry never met a stranger,” his family said. “Everyone he met was soon treated to one of his many life stories.”
Mr. Parks was preceded in death by his daughters Vickey Ford and Twila Parks.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marybell Parks, of Bayfield; daughters Connie Valencia of Ignacio and Beverly Clennin of Delta; sons Cliff Parks of Ignacio, Lynn Parks of Durango and Keith Parks of Farmington; 18 grandchildren; 33 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 12, 2012, at the Pine Valley Four Square Church, 1328 County Road 501 in Bayfield.