Cover photo for Dennis Parks's Obituary
1953 Dennis Parks 2024

Dennis Parks

October 3, 1953 — May 9, 2024

Niles, Michigan

Dennis Richard Parks, 70, of Niles, MI passed away peacefully on May 9, 2024 after bravely battling an illness for the past few months. Dennis was born on October 3rd, 1953 to David and Mary (nee Hefty, later Mary Blood) Parks in Lansing, MI. He leaves behind a wide-reaching legacy of love for his family, friends, former players, teammates, and students, and all who knew him. His kind-hearted interactions, fierce athletic competitiveness, and desire to help others are fundamental characteristics that made him special.

Dennis grew up in Lansing, MI and graduated from Lansing Eastern High School in 1971 where he played basketball and baseball, winning the Diamond Classic his senior year. After graduation, Dennis’ journey took him to Central Michigan University, where his passion for basketball flourished. Playing basketball for CMU was one of “Denny’s” favorite memories to reminisce about, making it to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1975. His game winning “miracle” buzzer beater at Western Michigan University late that season kept the Chippewa’s conference title hopes alive, ultimately securing the Mid-American Conference Championship and CMU’s first ever NCAA tournament berth.  In his senior season, Denny earned All-MAC honorable mention honors and remains in 7th place for the all-time season assist leaders at CMU. He met several life-long friends at CMU, who kept a smile on his face throughout the years. Dennis would go on to be inducted to the CMU Hall of Fame in October of 2015, along with the rest of the 1975 CMU basketball team.

Upon graduation from CMU, Dennis earned his CPA license and worked for the State of Michigan Auditor General, but it was only a matter of time before he would be drawn back to the hardwood. In 1980, he accepted the position of Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Southwestern Michigan College, where he also served as an accounting professor for 20+ years. This inflection point in his life laid the foundation for a career dedicated to helping others, which he exemplified through his extensive involvement with the American Youth Basketball Tour. His tough yet encouraging coaching style left an unforgettable mark on teams at SMC, Niles High School, Indiana University-South Bend, Ring Lardner Middle School, and many more youth teams over the years. Notable on-court coaching achievements include being named the 2002 South Bend Tribune Coach of the Year after guiding his inaugural NHS team to conference, district, and regional championships and memorably snapping a 28 game losing streak to the Benton Harbor Tigers. He also guided his 2006 NHS team to a SMAC West Division Title. Denny stepped away from the sidelines in December 2023, culminating a coaching career that spanned over four decades.

Dennis married the former Brenda Gregg on June 16th, 1979. The pair would eventually settle in Niles, MI, where they raised their five children, or as Dennis lovingly referred to them, his five gold medals.  He took great pride in coaching several of their youth teams over the years. When he wasn’t coaching, he was always supporting from the bleachers, or using his video camera to create home videos and document nearly every school event, which he memorialized into “video yearbooks” that he proudly distributed to his kids and their classmates at the end of the school year. He took great pride in his role as a dad.

In his leisure time, Dennis found joy in the company of his grandchildren, watching sports, cheering for the Detroit Tigers, Lions, Pistons and Michigan State Spartans, playing pinochle and euchre, listening to Peter, Paul and Mary, and enjoying the simple pleasures of life, such as cake and ice cream or his favorite meal, a hamburger with just ketchup. He loved interacting with people from all walks of life, and frequently concluded a conversation with his signature catch phrase, “Keep Smiling!”. His enthusiasm for life will be deeply missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

Preceding Dennis in death were his parents and step-parents, David and Bethel Parks and Ronald and Mary Blood. Surviving Dennis are his children, Meghan (Andy) Joseph of Grand Ledge, MI, Ashton (Paul) Davis of Osceola, IN, Nathaniel (Leigh) Parks of Niles, MI, Jordan (Jessica) Parks of Okemos, MI, and Austin Parks of Niles, MI; grandchildren, Jace and J.J. Joseph of Grand Ledge, MI, Flynn and Lincoln Davis of Osceola, IN, Avery, Harper, Kendall and Hayden Parks of Niles, MI; Partner, Denise Peters of Niles, MI; brothers, Doug Parks of Eaton Rapids, MI and Dan (Denise) Parks of Lake Odessa, MI, sister Pam (Michael) Holland of Novi, MI, step-brother, Ed (Robin) Grounds of Okemos, MI; aunt, Beverly Barnum of Waterville, OH, and several beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.

A memorial service to honor Denny’s life will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 13 South Fourth Street in Niles on Wednesday, May 29th at eleven, with a luncheon to follow. Visitation services will be held on Tuesday, May 28th, from 4-7pm at Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles, and before the memorial service on Wednesday from 10-11. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations to the Niles High School Basketball program, c/o Niles Vikings Athletic Boosters, 1441 Eagle Street, Niles, MI  49120, in memory of his dedication to education and youth sports.

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