Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 3, 2013

Kenneth Chester Parker

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Kenneth Chester Parker, age 99, died Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. At the time of his death Mr. Parker was a resident of The Traverse Manor located on Dracka Road in Traverse City. Mr. Parker was born Aug. 31, 1914, in Lansing, the second child of Wilfred and Alice (Oren) Parker.

He graduated from Rochester High School in 1931 and the University Of Michigan in 1935. While at the University Mr. Parker was a member of the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and covered varsity hockey, baseball and tennis for The Michigan Daily.

In May of 1937 Mr. Parker married Elizabeth Woodhams. They remained married for 75 years until her death in June of 2012.

In 1943 Mr. Parker was drafted into the U.S. Army and fought during World War II in northern France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He was discharged from the Army in October of 1945 in Detroit.

Together, in 1947 Mr. and Mrs. Parker founded the Antrim County News in Bellaire and later acquired The Mancelona Herald. In 1959 they sold both newspapers and moved to Traverse City, where Mr. Parker had accepted the position of city editor, reporter and editorialist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle. He held that position until 1971 when he moved to the Traverse Area Public Schools as director of communications. Nevertheless, he continued to write a weekly column for the Record-Eagle for many years after he left the paper. He also served for several years as an adjunct instructor of journalism at Northwestern Michigan College.

In 1984 Mr. Parker wrote and published Civilian at War, which recounted his experiences as an ordinary GI during WWII. The book was extensively revised and reprinted in 2002 with the assistance of Victor and Amy Herman of Horizon Books. In 1999 he wrote and published Be Independent! Publish Your Own Newspaper, which described his founding of the Antrim County News, the life and times of a small town newspaper publisher and the ethics of small town journalism.

Mr. Parker was very active with the Old Town Playhouse in multiple capacities, not only as a cast member in numerous productions, but serving as a member of its board of directors and board of trustees. He was instrumental in procuring the property which is now the organization’s permanent site.

Mr. Parker and Mrs. Parker were also instrumental in the capital campaign which raised the funds necessary to build the new Traverse Area District Library on Woodmere.

Mr. Parker, pretty-good golfer, voracious reader and rabid Scrabble player throughout his life, is survived by his three children, Marilyn Mast (Timothy), of Bloomfield Hills, Nancy Read (Peter), of Traverse City, and Robert Parker (Suzanne), also of Traverse City; and seven grandchildren, Scott and Ashley Mast, Benjamin and Alex Read, and Philip, Kevin and Charles Parker.

He was predeceased by his brother, Oren Parker; and his wife, Elizabeth.

A memorial service celebrating the long and rich life of Mr. Parker will be held on Nov. 23, 2013, at 2 p.m., at the First Congregational Church located on Center Road in Traverse City.

For those wishing to make a donation in Mr. Parker’s name, the family has identified the Old Town Playhouse and the Traverse Area District Library as local charities which were very important to Mr. Parker throughout his life.

Kindly share your memories with the family on their online guestbook at

Arrangements were made with the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and Cremation Services.