Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Great Alaskan Walt Parker Departs

Walt Parker June 2011
I met Walt Parker when I first arrived in Anchorage in 1977 because he was active in the local American Society for Public Administration (ASPA).  He has been supportive of whatever I was working on since then and a constant inspiration of how to be a great human being.  

I just learned this evening that he died this afternoon.  I just need to say a few things here off the top of my head about him and what an amazing man he was and life he led.

He served in China and the Burma Road as a pilot in World War II.  He told me once that he got contact lenses so he wouldn't be kept out of the air force.  I didn't even know they existed back then.  They certainly must have been uncomfortable before all the fancy wetting solutions became available.

He came to Alaska from San Francisco as I recall, after WW II, and worked out in very rural Alaska with the FAA.  He was a bush pilot, lived in a log cabin, and mushed dogs.

He acted in the Anchorage Community Theater in the 50s and was on the Anchorage borough assembly.  He was head of the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill Commission and has been on the Arctic Commission regularly flying to places like Siberia and Greenland and Iceland.  He helped the Australians develop distance education.  There was something else he did in Mongolia. 

You could mention any place in the world and not only had he been there, he'd done important projects there and could tell you about the politics and economy and history.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have had him in my life and as a mentor and guide as well as a friend.  He was my google before there was a google.

I'd bump into him out skiing with his dogs on the Campbell Airstrip trail in his late 70s and probably early 80s. 

Walt believed in honest government, justice, fairness, decency, and education.  He was smart and wise and always ready to stand up for the public and for reason.

I've had a fair amount of experience with people in their 80's and 90's in the last ten years and life can be good as long as you're reasonably mobile and still have your faculties.  Walt had all his faculties, but he was getting noticeably frailer in the last year, though he did drive himself over to our house not too long ago.  I'd like to think he checked out while he was still himself and before he became a burden on others.  But there's a big hole in my heart today. 

These are just a few quick random thoughts.  You can see a better organized bio of Walt here.

I decided I needed to double check on this and called another friend who knew Walt well and he told me Walt died at home with all his family around.  

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