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Charles Cropper Parks

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Charles Cropper Parks

Charles Parks, age 90, Delaware's nationally treasured sculptor, died on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at the Methodist Country House.

Born in 1922 in a modest farmhouse in Onancock, VA, the son of George W. Parks and Lee Cropper Parks, he began his education in a one-room schoolhouse in Talleyville, Delaware. His formal art instruction began in 1938 when he was in the tenth grade. During the onset of World War II, Parks joined the Air Force as a Second Lieutenant. In 1942 he married Inge Ruehl of Wilmington, an accomplished pianist, who was to be the mother of four talented children. In 1947 he entered the University of Delaware to resume his studies. The next year he began four years of study at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, juggling the roles of student, machinist, sculptor, husband and father. By 1950, Parks was receiving a parade of prizes and awards as the world of academic sculpture recognized his abilities.

The lifetime works of Charles Cropper Parks are a Delaware treasure. Just as Frederic Remington reminds us of the American West, Charles Parks represented Delaware, its people, its landscape and its values. Parks had always hoped that one day his vast collection would be housed in a space that would be available to the public. In 2011, that hope became a reality when the Parks family donated approximately 290 of Charles Parks' works of art to the State of Delaware.

In accepting the collection, Govenor Jack Markell said: "Charles Parks was an extraordinarily talented artist and sculptor whose life work made an impact on so many," said Gov. Jack Markell. "The State of Delaware was fortunate to become the steward of his awe-inspiring collection, both for its artistic and its cultural value. I am sorry to hear of his passing. His family and friends can find comfort in knowing his body of work will impact and inspire future generations."

In Delaware and throughout the Brandywine Valley, Charles Parks' works are to sculpture the equivalent of what N.C. and Andrew Wyeth's works are to painting. Through his public, corporate, and private commissions, Parks established himself as a professional artist of the highest caliber. For over 50 years, Parks created 300 sculptures for individuals, public parks and plazas throughout Delaware and across the U.S.

Perhaps his best-known works, nationally and internationally, are his three Madonnas. These monumental sculptures that soar over thirty feet high transcend divergent belief systems. When the first Madonna, "Our Lady of Peace," was shown in Rodney Square, several thousand visited it, left messages, prayers and donations. It is now in Santa Clara, California. The second Madonna, known as Our Lady of the New Millennium, is now at St. John's Passion Church in Indiana. The third Madonna, Our Lady Queen of Peace, was commissioned by the Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church in New Castle, Delaware, and can be viewed by drivers crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

Other well-known public sculptures are: Father and Son located in Spencer Plaza; Boy and Dogs located at Fountain Park; Boy with Hawk located at the Brandywine River Museum, The Student at Newark Free Library; Sunflowers at the City County Building; Vietnam at Brandywine Park; Apprentice at the H. Fletcher Brown Memorial Park; and the sculpture of Governor Russell Peterson near the Riverfront Nature Center.

Parks captured the individual beauty and universal power of the human condition, and touched people in a profound way with accessible work, each one telling a story. The writer of Parks' biography, Dr. Wayne Craven, said: "In it we see ourselves and we see something more."

Ingelora Parks Terpning, speaking for the family said the family believes that no one could express the purpose of his works better than her father himself, when several years ago he said, "If I can communicate some of the nobility that we all share, then I've succeeded."

June Peterson, chair of The Charles Parks Foundation said, "Without a doubt, Charles Cropper Parks succeeded. Our greatest accomplishment as a Foundation was to ensure that Charles' sculptures will be available to everyone in the state to enjoy for years to come."

Survivors include his wife of 70 years, Inge R. Parks; his children: Eric V. Parks, Christopher C. Parks, Charles C. Parks Jr., and Ingelora P. Terpning; sisters: Marybeth P. Kemske, Geraldine P. Coyle, and Adilee P. Koppenhaver: and 9 grandchildren: Eric, Nida (Rob Richardson), Lucy (Jon Solinsky), Elysia, Michael, Rae, and Wyatt Parks and Wesley and Sarah Terpning; and 2 great-grandchildren, Benjamin and Claire Elizabeth Solinsky.

The public will be invited to attend a memorial service for Parks to be held before the end of the year at the Chase Center. The exact date will be announced after all arrangements are complete.

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Doherty Funeral Homes

Published in The News Journal from Oct. 27 to Oct. 28, 2012
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