John William Parks – Master Sergeant, United States Army

30 August 2006:John William “Bill” Parks, 90, a ballet dancer, World War II combat veteran and Government Printing Office bookbinder, died July 29 of disease of the heart muscle at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in Charlotte Hall. He was a longtime resident of College Park.

Parks was born in Baltimore and moved to Washington after being adopted as a youngster. He attended Eastern High School but dropped out before graduating to work. He paid for dance classes at a local studio while working at a grocery store. A slight man, lithe and graceful, he danced en pointe , which was unusual for a male dancer. At 19, in 1934, he danced at the National Theatre.

Still dancing on the side, he went to work in 1936 as a folding machine operator at the National Publishing Co. until being called into the Army in 1941. After taking courses in drafting and mathematics at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, he joined the 36th Engineer Combat Group. A master sergeant, he was involved in campaigns in Algeria, French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, southern France and the Rhineland. He also took part in the Battle of Anzio in 1943.

According to his daughter, Mr. Parks helped design the distinctive insignia for the 36th, a sea horse on a red-and-white shield. The seahorse symbolized the prowess the unit demonstrated during its many amphibious landings in Europe. At Anzio, where for 50 days Mr. Parks and his fellow combat engineers held seven miles of front lines, German soldiers referred to them as “the Little Seahorse Division.”

He received the Bronze Star for meritorious service in support of combat operations in southern France in August 1944. Landing with his unit on the beach, he discovered the command post had been changed. Despite mines and heavy shelling, he managed to set up a new command post in short order.

Before his discharge in 1945, he worked with military intelligence officers investigating allegations of subversive actions of military personnel. He also worked with the CIA after World War II.

In 1953, he joined the Government Printing Office as a bookbinder and stayed until his retirement as a supervisor in 1975. He also worked as an assistant manager at the once family-oriented Beltsville Drive-In theater on Baltimore Boulevard in College Park.

Mr. Parks was a charter member of University Christian Church in Hyattsville, a member of the American Legion in Greenbelt and of the Birmingham Masonic Lodge in Beltsville.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Alta Parks of Charlotte Hall; two children, Beverly Wilson of Silver Spring and Patricia Long-Bradley of Huntingtown; and three grandchildren.


“BILL” on July 29, 2006 of Charlotte Hall, Maryland. Beloved husband for 60 years to Alta Parks; loving father of Beverly Wilson and Patricia Long-Bradley (Bruce); grandfather of Brian Wilson, Erin Wilson and Katie Bradley. A memorial service will be held at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, 29449 Charlotte Hall Rd., Charlotte Hall, Maryland 20622 on Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 3:30 p.m.

Inurnment will be take place at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, September 5, 2006 at 1 p.m.

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