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Jack Francis Parks, 85, recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award

Jack Francis Parks
Jack Francis Parks

WILMINGTON — Jack Francis Parks, 85, died Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at his residence.

He was born Feb. 6, 1933, to James Thomas Parks and Stella Coble Parks in a log cabin in Climax, North Carolina. Jack was the youngest brother to Grover Thomas Parks and James Gordon Parks.

Jack graduated from Pleasant Garden High School in 1951. He attended Brevard Jr. College, where he played baseball from 1951 to 1953. He then attended High Point College and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1956.

Jack began driving when he was six years old to get his disabled mother to school to teach. He also learned to fly a J3 Cub and soloed at 15, and so began his love of aviation. He flew a J3 Cub during college and then began work as a crop duster for several years. He flew corporate aircraft for McClain Trucking company from 1958 to 1962 and joined Piedmont Airlines in 1962, flying a Martin 404 and then retired 30 years later in 1991 flying a Boeing 737 for USAir. Jack was commonly known to announce to his passengers and crew just before takeoff, “Heeeere we go!”

Jack was a loyal member of the Piedmont Silver Eagles group. He was an active member of the EAA chapter 297 pilot association at Stag Park field in Burgaw, where he flew his beloved Cessna 180. For many years, he served as a EAA volunteer pilot for the Young Eagles program giving airplane rides to kids. Jack was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. In 2016, the FAA awarded Jack the distinguished Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award honoring 50 years of flying.

Jack joined St. John’s Masonic Lodge No. 1 in 1967 and was a 50-year member. He also joined the Scottish Rite Temple and the Shrine that same year. He was president of the Shrine Club and The Royal Order of Jesters, and a member of the Sudan Drum and Bugle Corp and the Arab Choo Choo. He was a lifelong member of Winter Park Presbyterian and regularly played the ukulele in the ukulele choir.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Alice Smith Parks.

Survivors include his daughter, Shannon Parks Stephens (Chris); sons, Jim Parks (Judy) and Joe Parks (Laura); grandchildren, Shane Stephens, Cameron Stephens, Chase Stephens, Connor Coupland, Holt Parks and Lilly Parks.

The family wishes blue skies and tailwinds to “Papa” Jack…he has flown west.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 21, at Andrews Valley Chapel, 4108 South College Road. The family will receive visitors one hour prior beginning at 1 p.m. Burial will follow in Oleander Memorial Gardens.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Masonic Home for Children at Oxford, 600 College St., Oxford, NC 27565; or Winter Park Presbyterian Church, 4501 Wrightsville Ave., Wilmington, NC 28403.

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