Lance Parks

Lance passed away on Jan. 30, 2020, from pneumonia due to Influenza A infection.

This is truly a very sad time for our family as we have lost a wonderful father and grandfather, a friend and a man who lived life to the fullest.

Lance was born in Maywood, Illinois, on Dec. 13, 1942, to Lance Melvin Parks and Flora Garnet Schulz. Lance was the second eldest of seven children: four sons and three daughters. Growing up was tough and money was tight. The family endured two house fires during which the kids were sent to the neighbors or grandma’s house while his dad rebuilt the homes. Family outings on a weekend were in the old station wagon, which didn’t always make the 50-mile trip to the state park, but those were some of the best childhood memories. Lance worked during high school at the local drugstore to help his parents and family with the little money he earned.

He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in mathematics. He and his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Elizabeth, moved to Champaign, Illinois, where he completed his masters of mathematics. His goal was to get his PhD in mathematics; however, Lance wanted to be involved in the space program but at that time those positions were hard to come by even with a PhD in math. His local GP encouraged him to apply to medical school and he began his four-year course as a medical student at the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1972. Tours of duty were at Cook County hospital, Presbyterian St. Luke’s and U of Illinois Hospital. Being a medical student in downtown Chicago gave him a very interesting and sometimes shocking exposure to life as a big city doctor.

He met Sally Deupree while she was a nursing student at the University of Illinois in 1970 and she became his wife in 1973. Together, they moved to Portland, Oregon, where Lance began his internship with the goal of a family practice residency.  Three months into the family practice residency he discovered his flair for anesthesia. He then entered the anesthesia residency at OHSU in 1972. In 1975, he had the opportunity to train in open heart anesthesia, working with Dr. Albert Starr and became very competent in cardiovascular anesthesia, taking care of day-old infants with almost fatal abnormalities to elderly patients needing valve replacements or bypass grafts for heart disease.

In February of 1976, Lance received a call from a former classmate, Dr. Robert Ruble, who informed him of this incredible opportunity to build an open heart surgery program in Billings. That was a bit of a problem, as he had already accepted a fellowship in Anesthesia at Stanford University. Hunting and fishing and the wide-open spaces won him over and he chose to turn down the prestigious fellowship. In 1979, he worked with Dr. Tim Dernbach to help make the open heart surgery program in Billings the second best place in the country to have open heart surgery. During his tenure as a cardiac anesthesiologist, he developed a devotion and admiration for the veterans he had the occasion to meet, in and out of the operating room. This was a driving force for his love of country. He retired from practicing anesthesia in 2016. Lance’s latest job was to help people who wanted to legally use medical marijuana. His patients taught him a great deal and were grateful for his empathy and ability to listen.

Lance had many names: Dr. Parks, Bwana, Daddy, Pops, Dr. Elvis, among others. His great loves included his family, including his children, grandchildren and siblings; hunting all over the world; fishing trips to Canada; building a home; remodeling anything even if it was perfect to begin with; and spending his later years in the beach house in South Africa on the Indian Ocean. He and Sally met so many wonderful people halfway around the world. Lance was president of Safari Club International, Billings Chapter for two years. He hunted on almost every continent and was proud to help with anti-poaching efforts worldwide.

Lance is survived by his children, Elizabeth Dahlhoff, PhD, Lance David, Rebekah, Juliet and Alicia; Sally; his five remaining brothers and sisters; and five grandchildren, Kathleen, Victoria, Emma, Dmitri and Nixon. He is predeceased by his parents; sister Andrea; and son-in-law, Geoff Dahlhoff.

The family will have a memorial service in the late summer. In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider a donation to Lance’s favorite charity, the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports and honors defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. Please visit https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/donate/.

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