August 15, 2023
Jack Parks

John Lester “Jack” Parks, Jr., 82, of Melfa, VA, formerly of Parksley, VA, passed away Saturday, August 12, 2023 at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital.

Born January 14, 1941 in Nassawadox, VA, he was the son of the late J. Lester Parks and Ethelyne Broughton Parks, formerly of Exmore, VA.  A native of the Eastern Shore, he graduated from Northampton High School and received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Military Institute.  Jack was a gifted mathematician and engineer who worked for NASA.

Following retirement from Wallops in 1996 after 34 years of service, he moved to Florida for a few years, contracting with the FAA and the Eastern Range, but later returned and supported Wallops once again as a contractor range safety specialist.  Prior to his government retirement, he served many years as the Head of the Ground and Flight Safety Section, and as Range Safety Officer.  Whether it was Scout, Pegasus, sounding rocket campaigns, balloons, or Navy missiles, Jack was the driving force behind defining a safe way which allowed missions to be approved and conducted.

Jack always had a passion for Wallops and their work.  He was always cool under pressure and a calming influence in the Range Control Center, always finding a way to pull a rabbit out of a hat that allowed him to give a “Go For Launch”.  He was also a leader in pushing Wallops to embrace new technology.  He was a major influence in the development of Control Center computer systems and in the development of the first mobile range control center that enabled command-destruct launches worldwide, although he did often frustrate system developers for insisting on capabilities that went beyond core requirements.  When asked if this was a requirement, he would say that it was more of a “desirement”.  NASA thinks he invented that word.

Mapp, Mapp and Klein Injury Attorneys

It is no overstatement to say that Jack’s “can-do” attitude was key to many customers selecting Wallops who found his positive and practical safety approach appealing compared to other launch sites.  He was an international leader in range safety policies, often called upon by other federal organizations and space agencies for guidance.  Jack was also a mentor to many young engineers, some of whom are now leaders at Wallops.  So many of the capabilities and programs at Wallops today are the result of Jack’s work and influence.

In 2016 he received the Director’s Achievement Award. Chosen directly by the director of NASA himself, Jack received this award for the many ways he influenced and improved range safety, not only for NASA but for the international space launch community. The director lauded his unique ability to always find a way to pull off a launch when anyone else would have stopped it; for pursuing and creating technology that changed range safety globally; and for being the foremost international authority on range safety, often being pursued by foreign countries to lend his expertise and advice to their launch programs. It was Jack’s honor to devote his life to the passion he loved.

Jack was preceded in death by his loving wife of 38 years, Roxanna Marshall Parks; his parents, Lester and Ethelyne; his son, Marshall Broughton Parks, formerly of Melfa, VA; his brother, Randall “Randy” D. Parks, formerly of Smith Beach, VA; and his sister, Marylyne P. Beyer, formerly of Charlotte, NC. Survivors include his two sons, John L. Parks III and wife Lisa, of Accomac, VA, and David C. Parks and wife Tina, of Baltimore, MD; his sister, Kay P. Trower and husband Pres, of Eastville, VA; his grandson, David C. Parks, Jr., of Exmore, VA; and several cousins, nieces, nephews, extended family members, and many good friends.

Funeral services will be held at the Epworth United Methodist Church, 4158 Seaside Road, Exmore, VA 23350, on Friday, August 18, 2023 at 2:00 p.m., with The Rev. Mikang Kim officiating.  Interment will be in the Parksley Cemetery.

When you think of Jack remember:  when the view of possibility is obscured, look up – the sky lies open.

Memorial donations may be made to Epworth United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 488, Exmore, VA  23350.

Memory tributes may be shared with the family at

Arrangements by the Williams-Parksley Funeral Home.

Hardee's Chicken Tender Platters

Share this

Listen Live!


Local Weather

May 19, 2024, 8:22 am
Overcast clouds
Overcast clouds
9 mph
Apparent: 59°F
Pressure: 1015 mb
Humidity: 93%
Winds: 9 mph NE
Windgusts: 20 mph
UV-Index: 0.56
Sunrise: 5:49 am
Sunset: 8:08 pm

Visit our sponsors

Coldwell Banker Harbour Realty



Hardee's Chicken Tender Platters

Member of the

esva chamber