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October 29, 2013

Journalist and Traverse City civic activist Ken Parker dies at 99

TRAVERSE CITY — Ken Parker, a newspaperman, author, and a driving force behind the Old Town Playhouse and the new Traverse City library, died at age 99.

Parker’s son, Robert, said his father died peacefully on Saturday, surrounded by family, at Traverse Manor. He resided there with his wife, Betty, until her death in June 2012.

“He stopped playing Scrabble two and a half weeks ago. That tipped us off the end must be near,” said Robert, who described his dad with one word: “gracious.”

Robert said his dad lived a rich and meaningful life and was most proud of his years as a journalist.

He founded the Antrim County News in 1947 and later acquired the Mancelona Herald. He sold both papers in 1959 and joined the Traverse City Record-Eagle, where he worked as a reporter and city editor. He became public relations director for Traverse City Area Public Schools in 1971 and wrote Record-Eagle columns for another eight years.

“He wrote at the top of the list, as far as quality reporters go. He was just a wonderful reporter and a good person,” said Gil Bogley, a former Record-Eagle publisher.

Harry Cook said Parker was his mentor in journalism — more than he ever knew. He “gently edited” his sports articles for the Antrim County News in 1955 and 1956, while teaching him the basics. Later Cook became a religion editor and op-ed columnist at the Detroit Free Press.

“Ken from time-to-time would sit down at his prehistoric manual typewriter — with partial M’s and W’s missing — and snap off little critiques always laced with praise and encouragement,” he said.

Parker authored two books, “Be Independent! Start Your Own Newspaper” and “Civilian at War,” in which he recounted his front line World War II experiences.

“He was a doughboy slugger, he was a trench guy, he lived through it, but like so many people in that war, he didn’t talk about it. But he wrote a book about it,” Bogley said.

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