BY KEN O' TOOLE
Ret. Army Lt. Col. Charles M. Parkin Jr., 88, founder and a chief benefactor of the Garibaldi Museum, died Dec. 28, at the home of his daughter Cheryl Evans, and her husband, Warren Evans, in Richmond, Va.
The story of Parkin's involvement with Garibalidi and the museum began back in the early 1980s.
In 1982, Parkin, with Frances E. Cross, co-authored "Captain Gray's Voyage of Discovery 1787." Intrigued with the story of Captain Gray, he traveled across the country doing research and selling the book. He came to the conclusion that the story of Captain Gray and the significance of his discoveries needed to be told.
In 1984, Parkin offered $50,000 in seed money for a museum to any community in the Pacific Northwest that would make land available for the museum. Soon thereafter, Lorraine Vandercouvering, of Garibaldi wrote Parkin about his book.
She told Parkin about some available land in Garibaldi for such a project. So Parkin provided the seed money for the land and, throughout the next decade, donated money to finance construction of the 9,000-square-foot building, which began in 1992.
During this time, Vandecoevering and later, Capt. Robert Mundell of Netarts, worked with Parkin. While overseeing the construction, Parkin collected artifacts and donated his personal collections to the museum. He continued to donate money toward its construction. It was finally completed in 2005.
Between 2002 and 2005, Parkin's daughter and son-in-law, Cheryl and Warren Evans, both former history teachers, traveled the East Coast and collecting artifacts to tell the story of Gray and 18th century American sailors.
The museum was open to visitors in 2004 from July through September, and again in 2005. The Evanses, with Cheryl as director and Warren as curator, will return to Garibaldi in July to open the museum for the summer, operating Thursdays through Mondays.
The museum had 371 visitors that first season in 2004, Cheryl Evans said, and attendance grew to 895 in the 2005 season, with a peak one-day turnout of 66 people.
The museum, a 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation, is dedicated to enhancing the maritime heritage of the Pacific Northwest by collecting information relating to Gray and his vessels, the Lady Washington and Columbia Redivivia. The museum is focused on recognizing cultural contributions and furthering understanding of all aspects of such subjects as shipbuilding, sailing and navigation.
The museum is also involved with the Garibaldi Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to local graduating high school seniors submitting winning essays dealing with Gray and related Pacific Northwest trade.
Parkin was born in Aspinwall, Pa., June 30, 1917. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and became a demolitions expert.
During World War II, he was with the Office of Strategic Service, a kind of precursor to the CIA. It was to be manned with, as President Franklin Roosevelt put it at the time, "the best of the best spies, saboteurs and assassins."
He later recounted to daughter Cheryl Evans that the OSS provided him with probably the most frightening moments of his life. He described night combat jumps " three seconds in air no idea where you would fall."
He later was sent to the China-Burma Theater during the war. He parachuted into China to train Chinese troops in the art of war. He gathered weather and coastal observations along 200 miles of the southeast coast of China for possible invasion by MacArthur's forces from the Philippines.
His reconnaissance reports must have been pretty valuable, he jokingly told his daughter, "because the moment I turned it in to Washington, the war was over."
Parkin's interests also led him into his role as president of the American Rocket Society's Washington, D.C., chapter. Foreshadowing that involvement was his childhood experience of detonating a charge of flash powder that blinded him for 14 weeks.
Parkin also founded the Amateur Rocket Society and spoke at symposiums with top scientists associated with the U.S. space program, such as Wernher von Braun and Ernst Stuhlinger.
For the past four years, Parkin, in failing health, lived with the Evanses. However, he returned each summer to help operate the museum. He is also survived by children, Sandra Swenson, Heather Bryson, Gregory Parkin and Cecily Parkin, and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Cecelia Conlon Parkin, and his second wife, Marty Parkin.
Cheryl Evans noted that she had finished the next edition of the museum newsletter just before her father's death. "I read it to him," she said. "He was so proud of what had been done."
She added that she and Warren would be returning this summer "to continue to operate the museum in the spirit of Charles Parkin."
Vandecoevering, Garibaldi Museum president, looking back on the years of friendship with Parkin and his second wife, Marty, said the two will be greatly missed, but she said the museum will have "a most competent new executive director" in Cheryl Evans.
Vandecoevering added, "I was pleased to have been part of bringing the Garibaldi Museum to fruition. Our community has a privilege and a challenge to carry on."
The family has suggested that in lieu of flowers or cards, donations may be sent to the Garibaldi Museum, General Delivery, Garibaldi, OR 97118.