Tom Parkinson

by Shawna Lewis


If you’ve visited the Tulsa Air and Space Museum in the past 10 years, there’s a good chance you’ve met Tom Parkinson. He probably welcomed you, handed you a map, and answered your questions about the Jenks-manufactured, XTC ultralight aircraft on display. Unless he was busy shredding documents.

“Jim loved to shred documents,” curator Kim Jones said with a grin. “He’d have done well with the CIA. I’m not sure why, but he was always eager to shred paper for us. We’d set him up with a stack of old internal paperwork, and he could just shred for hours.”

The museum named Parkinson “Volunteer of the Year” in 2008, and again posthumously this year. Having retired from a career at United States Aviation, Parkinson showed up in his badge, lanyard, and logo-embroidered shirt to volunteer at least eight hours a day, three to five days a week.

“He was a great guy who would do anything for us,” he said. “He loved aviation, and just wanted to help out. Most days he was running the show behind the desk, but there wasn’t anything he was above doing. For a little while, we were between bookkeepers and needed someone to do it. He made it clear that he didn’t want to be our bookkeeper long term, but happily took the position until we could find somebody else.”

Every Monday, when the Air and Space Museum is closed, there is a bustle of volunteers cleaning, repairing, and maintaining the exhibits. They call them “The Monday Boys.” They even wear t-shirts proudly bearing their moniker. While Tom didn’t work on Mondays—he volunteered all week while the museum was open—that didn’t stop him from being a Monday Boy.

“It’s our tradition to go down the street to Evelyn’s for lunch, and Tom would always join us. We looked forward to having him around. He was a tall man with stark white hair and a big white handlebar moustache, and always a huge grin. He was quite a joker.”

Even after Parkinson’s health took a turn for the worse, Jones said he continued to come to their Monday lunches as long as he was able.

“It was hard for all of us to see this vibrant, vital man wither away. We had really grown used to having him smack in the middle of our loud, energetic crowd.”