COLUMBIA — George W. Parker was “the godfather of the Republican Party in Boone County,” former state Rep. Ed Robb said. Mr. Parker was the first Republican elected to any office in Boone County since the Civil War and founded the Grand Order of Pachyderms.
Mr. Parker died in his home in Columbia on Wednesday, May 27, 2009, from pancreatic cancer. He was 86.
His wife, Lois, was at his bedside, his daughter Peggy Parker said.
Mr. Parker was born May 16, 1923, in Joplin to William McKinley and Eva (Payne) Parker. He married Lois Oberpriller on Nov. 14, 1942. They were married for 66 years.
Mr. Parker served in the Air Force for 21 years and was promoted to major. In World War II, he piloted a B-26 Marauder over Normandy to assist in the landing of troops on D-Day in 1944 and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Purple Hearts, his family said. He later founded the B-26 Marauder Historical Society.
During his tenure in the Air Force, Mr. Parker flew about 60 missions, said Brian Gibbons, a historian for the 397th Bomb Group.*
Mr. Parker ended his military service as an assistant professor and commandant of cadets for the Air Force ROTC at MU from 1957 to 1961.
His son, G.W. Parker Jr., said that his father’s years in the service were an inspiration to him. When the younger Parker was entangled in a scandal that almost caused him to leave the Air Force after four years, a call to his father convinced him to change his mind.
At the time, his father told him he needed to look at the bigger picture and stay to serve, G.W. Parker Jr. said. The younger Parker said he remained in the service.
After leaving the military, Mr. Parker ran for the Missouri House of Representatives, where he served three terms. He also ran unsuccessfully for Missouri state treasurer.
“He ate and slept politics,” said the Rev. Harold Reisch, a former House colleague. “He committed himself unselfishly to the government and the Republican Party in Boone County.”
Mr. Parker not only tried to forward the Republican Party, Reisch said, but also tried to get people involved in politics in general.
“This is a loss for us all,” Reisch said.
“When he gave speeches, he would always say that people wanted to go fishing rather than be involved,” his son said, meaning that people would rather do anything else besides get involved.
When G.W. Parker Jr. learned of his father's diagnosis of cancer on April 29, he said he remembered his father's line. He asked his father if he wanted to go fishing.
Mr. Parker was a mentor to many politicians that followed him. Kurt Schaefer, a Missouri senator for the 19th Congressional District, said that Mr. Parker was an inspiration to him when he ran for Senate. Because Mr. Parker faced his own challenges for being a Republican in Boone County in a time when it was highly Democratic, he was a good mentor, Schaefer said.
“He was a relentless Republican and a hero to the Missouri House,” former state Rep. Larry E. Mead said.
Mead said he wished the human side of Mr. Parker had been more noted. He felt it was "lost in the shuffle."
"The Armed Forces can make you hard," he said. Mead said he saw Mr. Parker as a caring individual.
Mr. Parker worked constantly and hardly ever made it to his son's sporting events at Hickman High School. Whenever he did, G.W. Parker Jr. said that he would see his father sleeping in the bleachers because he was always so busy.
Mr. Parker is survived by his wife; three daughters, Peggy Parker of Alexandria, Va., Suzie Nichols of Jefferson City and Della Bennett of Alexandria, Va.; a son, G.W. Parker Jr. of Denver; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
“He was giving advice on politics, military and life right up until the end," said his daughter Suzie Nichols. "The last piece of advice he gave anyone was to tell the truth.”
She added that almost all of his family members were able to say goodbye to him over the last few weeks.
Parker was "as good of a citizen as there was," state Rep. Chris Kelly of Columbia said. "He was a role model for us all."
Services will be held at 3:30 p.m June 6 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, 2615 Shepard Blvd. His ashes will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Memorials may be sent to the B-26 Marauder Historical Society, 3900 E. Timrod St., Tucson, AZ 85711.