Bruce Parks, 78, of Chester

Bruce Edward Parks, 78, of Chester, passed away peacefully on April 9 at home surrounded by his wife and three children.

Bruce was born to Edna Klemm Parks and Ira George Parks in Orange, N.J., on April 23, 1943. The family lived in Maplewood, N.J., until Bruce was 7, when they moved to Denville, N.J. Bruce attended Denville schools, and later in life became a member of several Denville school groups on social media. He graduated from Morris Hills Regional and one of his major enjoyments was playing trumpet and the French horn in all of the high school bands: orchestral, marching, he did it all.

He was accepted at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J., on a music scholarship, where he continued playing his horns and was also the editor of the student newspaper. He enjoyed writing and journalism and often wrote for the local newspapers including the Morristown Record and the Denville Citizen. He earned his way through college, and often joked about doing 41 part time jobs — everything from driving a cab and limos to selling Christmas trees.

While he was earning his undergraduate degree, Bruce joined the Denville Rescue Squad and enjoyed being of service to the town. He especially enjoyed marching in parades, and frequently marched in costume as Smokey the Bear. One of his first dates with his wife Kathryn was at a parade dressed as Smokey, where they walked down the street hand-in-paw.

He received his bachelor’s degree in 1965 and went on to complete his master’s degree in education at Newark State College, now known as Kean College of New Jersey. While living in Denville, his first job was teaching sixth grade at an  elementary school, which he enjoyed thoroughly.

Kathryn and Bruce were married on Aug. 20, 1966 at the Episcopal Church in Denville. Their first child, Carolyn, was born in April 1970. Shortly after, the family moved to Sandyston-Walpack in northern New Jersey, where Bruce enjoyed having his own section of a trout stream running through the yard. Their son Evan was born in December 1973, and daughter Betsy (Elizabeth) was born in April 1976. Shortly after Betsy’s birth the family moved north to Vermont, first to Ludlow, then to their home on Main Street in Chester, which they own today.

Bruce was a longtime educator and spent many years as a grades 9-12 science teacher at Wilmington High School and later at Okemo Mountain School and the Springfield Parent-Child Center, covering subjects such as general science, chemistry, biology, environmental science and, his favorite, meteorology.

Bruce was a real weather geek. He was a member of the World Meteorological Society and attended many of their summer programs all around the United States, as well as the  World Meteorological Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, with Kathy. He very much enjoyed the camaraderie of weather fans, and even once had a walk-on on the Weather Channel during a conference! He was also a longtime member of the Vermont Science Teachers Association and the National Science Teachers Association, thoroughly enjoying his time working with fellow science teachers throughout the state and country.

Bruce was truly a naturalist who enjoyed the beauty and wonder of the natural world. He was a lifetime trout fisherman and member of Trout Unlimited, and a lifetime member of the Audubon Society. For several years, he participated in Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count in Vermont. The family also had many backyard bird feeders and Bruce could identify any bird.

A true people person and the extrovert of the family, Bruce enjoyed meeting new people and made friends easily wherever he went. He was also very loyal, and was lifelong best friends with John Bowker, who he met in Denville when they were in the third grade. The pair took many fishing trips together as young men, and later with their children and grandchildren on lakes, oceans, and rivers, bringing home as many stories (probably more) as they did fish.

Bruce was a true community-minded man, and volunteered with many organizations during his life. He was one of the founders of the Chester-Andover Family Center, along with other members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, where he served on the board and helped with various tasks long into his retirement until his physical ailments prevented him from contributing. He also served as a board member of the Whiting Library.

Bruce maintained his lifelong love of music, and performed often with the local group The Chester Brass. He enjoyed summer pilgrimages to Tanglewood to hear the Boston Symphony and other orchestral performances. We all remember attending Tanglewood together as a family with lawn seats, falling asleep on blankets under the stars while the music played into the evening.

Bruce is predeceased by his parents, Ira and Edna Parks.

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Kathyrn (Kathy), and his children Carolyn Parks (John Stocker) of Soquel, Calif., Evan Parks of Chester and Betsy Parks of Boston, Mass., and his granddaughter Emma Cook of San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The family would like to thank Dr. Tim Shafer of Grace Cottage for his longtime care and support through the years, and the Bayada nursing team for their wonderful hospice care at home.

A memorial service in celebration of Bruce’s life will be held at the First Universalist Parish of Chester, where Bruce was an active member, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 21. A reception will follow also at the church. Donations can be made in lieu of flowers to the Chester-Andover Family Center, by mail at P.O. Box 302, Chester, VT 05143,  in person at 908 VT-103 in Chester or by clicking here.

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  1. Sharon Jonynas says:

    Bruce was a very nice man, and our deepest condolences go out to his family.