The John Shinnick Web Site (Prior)
Last Update:October 7, 2023
John Shinnick 3.0: It's All About Me
On the whole, I have to say my parents were good parents. Oh, there were some aspects of my relationship with them that could have been better, but on the whole things worked out fine. Sadly, they both made their exits early. My dad died when I’d just turned 19, my mother 8 years later.
I was also blessed with a “best friend” who remains so to this very day. Gary Parks and I met in church confirmation class. Ninth grade. Our first class group activity was the annual “Trick or Treat for UNICEF”. As I recall, there were maybe 15 or 20 of us or so, and we were to pair up. Gary and I were left over, so we paired up. There were two pairs to a car, and each pair would be dropped off and start knocking on doors asking for donations.
Spending a day with someone in such an activity gives you a chance to get to know them, so it would have been nearly impossible to miss that we both played electric guitars. It was that evening that Gary called me and asked if I’d like to start a band with him. Neither of us had ever been in a band. We really had bad equipment, I had the low-end Gibson, better than Gary’s Japanese thing, made back before Japan started making quality stuff. But I played through a Heathkit radio, while Gary played through – I forget exactly what. But it was enough to make noise!
We started a band, the first for either of us, The Stolen Moments. We went through a few drummers and even more bass players, got better gear, and even had a few gigs. We generally got together at Gary’s house, which had a large basement, great for practice. We were almost like brothers and I got to know his parents and his sister Linda quite well. (Two sisters, actually. They took in an exchange student Tanya from the Navajo Nation in Arizona for a year and she became part of their family too!) Gary and I were best of friends all the way through high school and beyond, as I said, to this day.
One aspect of our friendship was that I was over at his house so much that his parents came to treat me as their second son, and even began to call me that. I didn’t think about it much until after my own father died; it began to mean more to me than before. After Gary moved away, I saw them regularly at church, and of course at Christmas when their family would get together. When my mother died, the bond grew stronger. I would even call occasionally for fatherly or motherly advice!
Ed and Ruth Parks were quite an accomplished couple. Ed was a very prominent architect, and further distinguished himself as a board member of the Detroit Zoo. Ruth was an artist who had many showings of her works in some well-known galleries. When Gary recorded a record album, he featured one of his mother’s pieces on the album cover. It was Ed who used one of his contacts that opened the door to my first professional position at Chrysler. Of course, they were both very supportive as I experienced the deaths of my own parents.
After I moved to California, I would still see them on my visits back to Michigan, or when they would come to see Gary when he lived in California. It was always a treat, and when they would call me their “other son” or “number two son” it always had a special ring to it.
Ed passed away a few years back. Gary was able to tell me when his end was near and urged me to give him a call, which I did. Though not an easy conversation, it was a most rewarding experience.
Before the pandemic, I returned to Michigan and saw a number of old friends, including Ruth and Linda, who by then had her own grandchildren! Ruth and I then went out to dinner and had a wonderful time. It was the last time I would see her, though we corresponded several times. Wednesday, July 26, I got a call from Gary that Ruth Parks had passed away peacefully at 11:00 that morning. She was ninety, had lived a rich, full life, and I will miss her.
Ed and Ruth Parks