"About the only one who dealt with it well was Lori," Bernard Parks said recently, his voice husky.
Then, more than six months after her amputation, Lori complained of pain in her shoulder. Doctors investigated.
"It was everywhere," Bobbie Parks said. "They kept trying, and they'd get one tumor and we'd celebrate. But there were always more."
On May 15, 1975, at noon, Lori Parks died. She was 16.
"Even today," Bernard Parks said, "I can tell when May gets here. At some point during the month, Bobbie will turn to me and say: 'Do you know what month it is?' "
The family persevered. Bobbie says today that she does not know how she would have made it without her husband. Separately, he says the same of her.
They had no more children after Lori's death, but they did have grandchildren. One, in fact, was named for the sister who never made it to adulthood. And then, 25 years, almost to the week, after her namesake's death, Lori Gonzalez was shot and killed while leaving a fast-food restaurant with a friend.
The Parks family was vacationing in North Carolina when the phone rang late in the night. "Do you know a Lori Gonzalez?" the sergeant on the line asked.
"Yes," Parks answered. "That's my granddaughter."
There was a long pause, and then a lieutenant came on the line. "She's been the victim of a homicide," the lieutenant said.
"That takes a minute to sink in," Bernard Parks recalled. That night, sitting up next to him in bed, Bobbie was the one who cut through the confusion: "She's dead, isn't she?"
Far away from home, Bernard Parks turned to the person he trusted most. He called his son, Bernard Jr., woke him up and bluntly told him what he had to do. Wait for an officer to arrive, go to see Felicia--the Parks' daughter, Lori's mother--tell her in person. Stay with her. Care for her. Don't let her find out from a stranger or from the news.
Bernard Jr. had been planning to take Lori to Las Vegas the next week to celebrate her 21st birthday. Instead, he told his sister that her daughter was dead.
"My father trusted me," Bernard Jr. said. "That meant a lot to me. I needed anything I could get at that point."
Bernard Jr., his father said, came through for his family: "He was like a soldier."
A Bitter Setback With Demotion
In 1997, as Parks stood beside Mayor Richard Riordan and accepted the nomination as chief of police, it was easy to forget that this same chief, one who so looks and sounds the part, reached that office only after deep disappointments.
Five years earlier, Parks was the odds-on favorite for the job. He emerged from the competition as the top internal candidate. That generally meant triumph in a department long committed to finding its chiefs from within its own ranks.
Bernard and Bobbie Parks were so confident that they sneaked away to the police uniform store and bought the silver, four-star band that only the LAPD's chief is entitled to wear. They took it home, and, alone in their room, pinned the stars to Bernard's pajamas, laughing.
But the chief selection process that year was haunted by the beating of Rodney G. King in 1991, the riots of 1992, the long struggle to dislodge Daryl Gates from police headquarters. The Police Commission wanted an outsider.
When Willie L. Williams was chosen instead, Bernard swallowed his pride. He accepted the No. 2 job in the department from Williams and, at a ceremony June 30, 1992, welcoming the new chief to town, Parks stood before the city's black leadership and presented Williams with the little red box containing his uniform stars.
"I couldn't believe it when I saw him pull out that box," Bobbie said of her husband. "Those were the same stars we had shined and prayed over."
Parks and Williams made an effort to work together, and for a time it outwardly seemed to work. Williams was popular with the public, Parks was effective and meticulous internally. But they never liked or really trusted each other. Williams was threatened by Parks, and Parks, though careful never to openly challenge his boss, quietly fumed about Williams' lack of LAPD knowledge and commitment.
In 1994, without fully explaining why, Williams demoted Parks, announcing it to the press before telling him to his face. It was the most fateful decision of Williams' tenure--probably the one that most thoroughly sealed him as a one-term chief--and it devastated Parks and his family.
Bernard Jr. was working in San Diego when his father paged him to tell him the news. Bernard Parks said he was being pushed aside and was going to retire.
"He's your dad, and you look at him as Superman," Bernard Jr. said. "All of a sudden, he isn't Superman anymore. He needed our support this time."
Bernard flirted with retirement and probably would have done it. But Bobbie Parks weighed in.
"I said: 'There is no way I will allow you to even entertain that idea,' " she said. "No, no, no, no, no. We're not going to do this. . . . We're going to ride this one out."