In Memoriam Paul Parks, Sr.
5/21/24 – 10/26/00
He finally got his nap. Not the 30-minute kind that falls between a long Sunday afternoon working on the back forty and a call to dinner, but that endless, dream-drenched sleep he longed for. When he was 60 he reported feeling virtually the same as 30—except he tired out more quickly. Of course, that was before he was diagnosed with multiple myaloma.
Paul Parks was born a second generation Oregonian in Pendelton, May 21, 1924, to Theodore Clifton Parks and Mary Ester Furnas. He was next to the last child in a family of six. His mother’s parents were one of the original families to pioneer Hermiston, Oregon. But Paul’s parents moved to Portland to follow work while he was still a baby. The house at 42nd and SE Harrison where he grew up still stands in good repair.
Childhood photos of Paul reveal a boy who appears good-natured, fun-loving and self absorbed—traits that were consistent of Paul throughout his life.
He had an early interest in photography, processing his own negatives and prints.
Paul’s sister said that all the kids in the neighborhood followed him to the city pool on Powell one time when he went there to test a diving bell he made. Paul said it worked okay, but was very noisy due to the light gauge tin he used; it expanded and contracted with his breathing.
Paul graduated from Franklin High School. His little sister complained that he made school harder for her. Every teacher who had Paul as a pupil expected exceptional work from her also.
Paul served in the Army Air Force from 1943 through 1946 and was honorably discharged. He was stationed in Lewiston, Idaho, and worked in the weather service.
Paul spent some time as a ship builder and a meat cutter, then was accepted as a student to Reed College. He graduated with a BA in Physics in 1953. Paul stunned his supervisor by building an oscilloscope for his thesis.
Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey, employed him upon graduation. Paul once recalled an exciting experience when intuition came to his aid. He was working on the design of a machine that read magnetic data tapes and he was trying to solve the problem of maintaining a slack of tape between the spool and the reader. It finally occurred to him that the moving loop of tape acted as a capacitor, its capacitance changing in direct proportion to its length. This feature could be measured and used to automatically regulate the length of the loop.
Paul looked back on his days at Bell Labs regretting he did not better apply himself to his work. “They had so many resources there. I could have gone anywhere with them,” he once lamented. At the time, he was more interested in the weekends: skiing, sailing and singing in the New York Glee Club. He kept the tails he wore the night he performed at Carnegie Hall.
After five years he met the woman he would marry, Carmella Formichella. He said he noticed her walking to work past his house one morning and determined to meet her. He arranged to leave his house for work when he saw her coming, then he offered to give her a ride to work. After courting several months, they married June 29, 1958. For their honeymoon they drove across the United States to Portland, Oregon, where Paul went to work for Tektronix as an engineer.
At Tektronix Paul quickly climbed into management and then administration. He was pulled away from his work in semiconductor development and placed in charge of the chemistry laboratory, the model shop and the library. He worked in recruiting, planning new facilities and organizing research.
Eventually he became frustrated with the politics that seemed to thwart progress on so many projects. He longed for the sense of accomplishment that came with product development. In 1967 he took a position as an engineer again.
Paul got involved in his community. He chaired his local school board. He was an officer on a committee that worked to bring irrigation water to the North Plains area. He became assistant supervisor of the Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District. He was instrumental in establishing an electronics curriculum at Portland Community College. He co-founded a northwest chapter of IMAPS.
In 1972 Paul did some consulting for the locally headquartered company Electro Scientific Industries. He became enamored with the capabilities of its new machine that could fine-tune printed resistors by cutting them with a small laser. When they offered to lease him one of their systems and help him get started doing this work as a service, he leaped at the opportunity. He incorporated P/M Industries in 1973; a medium-size company that is still in operation today.
Paul steadily expanded his operations. He founded TechCeram, a manufacturer of ceramic substrates used in the electronics industry; P/M Laser Products, a manufacturer of semi-automated laser systems; and Pacific Hybrid Microelectronics, a manufacturer of thick film circuits.
Paul was active in the trade organization that fed his businesses, IMAPS, and held numerous positions of merit in it, including the office of president in 1987. Paul wrote and co-wrote nine technical papers that were published in IMAPS technical journals.
In 1991 Paul was diagnosed with multiple myaloma following a routine annual physical. He was told he might live three years if he accepted treatment. After two rounds of chemotherapy failed to control the disease, Paul was accepted into an experimental treatment program that entailed extracting and farming his healthy stem cells, irradiating his remaining stem cells and then reintroducing his healthy cells. Over the course of some years he briefly attained full remission.
But the aggressive therapy took its toll on his body, aging and weakening him. The mental exertion of managing his company became untenable. He handed over control of his business to his youngest son Chris. Paul retired to his farm near North Plains and took up the project of selectively logging his property.
In the fall of 1997, a routine checkup revealed that cancer was active in Paul’s body again. A few months later he suffered a stroke. The following year his kidneys failed and Paul began receiving dialysis three times a week. Paul never fully recovered his speech. His health slowly deteriorated over the next few years. With decreasing mobility, Paul succumbed to pneumonia and died two weeks later, October 26, 2000.by