When former Menlo-Atherton High football coach Ben Parks passed away in his sleep on Aug. 19 at age 77, there was an immediate outpouring of emotions from those he touched throughout his rich life.
"This will not be an easy thing for any of us who were close to a man that was bigger then life," wrote one M-A alum. "Whether it was being conditioned to death, delivering food for the needy or simply receiving one of those famous 'hey there big fella' all of us were enriched, tempered and made better human beings by the passion, love and pure love of life that was ever present in Coach.
"He taught me to respect the content of a person's character without concern for the color of their skin. When you attempt something, give every bit of your ability, effort regardless of the challenge, and above all never quit until they have pull you off. To be thankful for what life gives you, because there are a lot less fortunate out there. And to respect my parents. I know if there is a God, that he's gonna be in great condition in about six weeks."
In addition to his years of coaching, Coach Parks also trained more than 1,000 NFL athletes over the years, including Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers.
A final chance to celebrate the life of Coach Parks, who coached football at the school from 1968-84 in addition to be the longtime wrestling coach, will take place Saturday during a public memorial at Menlo-Atherton High beginning at 11 a.m.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a 23-minute documentary on Coach Parks will be shown continuously in the new Performing Arts Center on campus.
Beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Coach Parks Field, Lott will join a host of speakers that include former California Controller and M-A alum Steve Westly, members of the Parks family, and members of the NFL Alumni Association. Jan Hutchins, a former sportscaster for KPIX, will be the Master of Ceremonies.
At 1 p.m., the event moves to the main gym for slide shows, memorabilia, and a chance for the public to share their stories of Coach Parks on video.
Parking is available at the school and across Middlefield Road at the SRI lot.
A tribute to Coach Parks, along with the dedication of the new lights at the football field, will take place during halftime of M-A's game (7 p.m.) against visiting St. Ignatius on Friday night.