Queen Davis-Parks, who touched the lives of many East Hamptoners as a teacher at the John M. Marshall Elementary School and as a devoted member of Calvary Baptist Church, died at home surrounded by family on April 6. She was 63 and had cancer.
Born on July 11, 1947, at Southampton Hospital, Ms. Davis-Parks was the daughter of Girlie Lee Hayes and the former Jenny Hill of East Hampton, the 12th among their 13 children. She was named Queen Elizabeth Hayes because the famous ocean liner arrived in New York when she was born, and the street she lived on in East Hampton, Queen’s Lane, was named for her by her father, a master carpenter.
Ms. Davis-Parks attended East Hampton schools. She began her teaching career as an aide at the East Hampton Day Care Center, then received a bachelor’s degree from Southampton College in elementary education cum laude. She went on to be awarded a master’s degree in science. She went into teaching as a divorced, single mother of two.
She and Leon Parks were married on Valentine’s Day in 1983 and became the parents of two additional children. Like his wife, Mr. Parks had a long career in the schools here, as a social studies teacher and assistant principal at East Hampton High School.
“. . . What drove Queen the most [was] her love for her husband, four children, and four grandchildren,” her family wrote. “Her door was always open” for the many children of relatives and friends “when the need arose,” they added.
Neil O’Connell, a former principal of John Marshall, recalled being new to the district and excited at the prospect of Ms. Davis-Parks becoming a third-grade teacher. “My own son was in her class,” he said, “and had a great year.” In her 27-year tenure at John Marshall, she was among the first to include multicultural studies. She also was cited for her innovative and inspiring teaching style.
In a biography written for the press, her family wrote: “One week her students were allowed to open their own restaurant. In so doing, they learned the math involved in fixing prices for the meals, the science in creating a recipe that is both delicious and wholesome, and the grammar and art necessary to create an appealing menu. The next week, they were runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad, using historic clues to navigate and astronomy to search for the North Star. . . .”
Spreading knowledge also was a focus of her work at Calvary Baptist Church. She not only raised money for the Sunday school, but was costume designer for a number of youth productions. To celebrate Black History Month, she developed and produced a full-length film, “Cry for Freedom,” in which community as well as church members had roles.
Her love of the church was notable even as a child, the Rev. Dr. Connie Jones of Calvary Baptist said. “Nothing would keep her from Sunday school,” even though she was the youngest of their group of friends. As an adult, she helped the church “when things weren’t going right,” Ms. Jones said. She noted that Ms. Davis-Parks was a soprano soloist and member of the church’s combined choir, whose favorite song was “God Specializes.” She also was a church trustee and had been chairwoman of its culinary department and its 50th anniversary banquet.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Davis-Parks is survived by three daughters, Aleta Williams of Washington, D.C., and Amy Parker and Tiffany F. Parks of East Hampton, and one son, Gregory Parks of Washington, D.C. Makesha Joyner of Washington, D.C., who lived with the Davis-Parks family for many years and was considered a daughter, also survives, as do two brothers who were Tuskegee Airmen, Lee Hayes of East Hampton and Robert Hayes of Pensacola, Fla., her sisters, Helen Hillman of East Hampton and Eleanor Williams of New York City, four grandchildren, and, among many nieces and nephews, a niece whom she thought of as a sister, Rita Barnard of East Hampton. She was predeceased by her parents and eight siblings: Willie Hayes, James Hayes, Glenn Hayes, and George Hayes, and Hester Hayes-Graham, Evelyn Carter, Jenny Jones, and Dixie Jayne Casiel.
A wake will be held at Calvary Baptist Church from 4 to 7 p.m. tomorrow, with the funeral there on Saturday at 1 p.m. Burial will be at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton. The family has said they would prefer donations to the Queen Davis-Parks Scholarship Fund, which is being established in her honor, rather than flowers. They may be sent to Suffolk County National Bank, 351 Pantigo Road, East Hampton, in care of Sarah Almeraz.
In learning of Ms. Davis-Parks’s death, the Right Rev. Michael Weeder, a family friend who is soon to become the archbishop of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, wrote to the family. “Your reflections on the life of your mother speak to a harvest of values and her impact on the lives of your family and the many you mention. What a qualitatively rich life.” H.S.R.