Bill and Patsy Parker reflect on a lifetime of love and caring for their community
By Donna Williamson
Bill and Patsy Parker have dedicated their lives to teaching and helping others and to serving their community.
Patsy retired from secondary education after 36 years as an English teacher and guidance counselor at J. W. Darden High School and Opelika High School. She still works part-time as a counseling adviser at Southern Union State Community College. Bill retired after 35 years in education with more than 30 years in Opelika City Schools where he served as Opelika High School assistant principal and Opelika Middle School principal.
Patsy has served on the Opelika City Board of Education since 2004. “I want what is best for our children. I was urged to accept the invitation to be on the board,” she said. “There is so much our children can achieve and I want to insure that they get an opportunity. This is my community and I plan to work to make it the best educational community it can be.”
Retirement is not in Patsy’s future. “I may change positions, but I will never retire from working with people, preferably children,” Parker said. “My mom Chinissa Boyd wrote for the Opelika Daily News for more than 50 years and wrote her last column two days before her death at age 96. There is nothing I like doing more than working in the fields of education and politics. My desire to make a difference keeps me going.”
Bill and Patsy take ownership of their community by serving as volunteers in many different capacities. Patsy serves on the Youth Leadership Board, the Opelika Industrial Development Board and the Opelika Parks and Recreation Board. “Community service is important because this is where you live and raise your children. A community is as good as those who contribute to its development,” she said.
Bill currently serves on the Indian Pines Golf Authority Board and the East Alabama Mental Health Board. “I keep going because I have always felt an idle mind is such a waste. I believe in taking care of my body and health,” he said. Bill also stays busy managing their rental property and adds with a smile, “I serve as a ‘gofer’ for my family.”
Bill is still involved in education since he has grandchildren in elementary school through college. “I am interested in doing anything that will help our young people reach their goals. I worry about where we are going and how we can help this generation escape the pitfalls that are before them,” he said.
Bill continues to be admired and remembered by former students. Patsy shared a letter that he received this summer from one of them thanking him for the influence he had on her life. This young lady wasn’t popular, and describes herself in the letter as a “poor white girl.” She explains that one of the highlights of her life was “winning class poem” her senior year. However, because of her social status, instead of being congratulated, she was overlooked while a teacher apologized to another child for her not winning. This dampened the winner’s joy.
She wrote, “I remember your kind words in the hallway the day after I won and how you congratulated me for winning. You told me that I would go down in the history of Opelika High School. I still cry now remembering those encouraging words you spoke to a poor, unpopular girl who didn’t have a lot of confidence in herself. You made me feel like I was somebody. You didn’t care what color I was, how rich or poor I was, or if I was popular. Your kind words of encouragement and congratulations will never be forgotten. I will forever be thankful for the influence you had on my life.”
Married for 58 years this month, the Parkers know what it takes to have a happy, successful marriage. “The key to our successful marriage is our respect for each other. We have always been best friends. We promised we would never leave each other without saying, ‘I love you.’ If we disagree or are angry about something, I am the one who will write him a letter expressing my displeasure. He pretends not to read it, but I will always find it opened,” Patsy said. “The written word carries no sting. Sometimes when you say something the inflections in your voice and the expressions on your face will display more animosity that you would want. You don’t get this in a letter.”
Bill echoed Patsy’s sentiments, “Be respectful to each other and be able to listen. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I love you.’ Personally, I feel my family is the most important part of my life,” he said.
Throughout their marriage, Patsy has always called her husband “Parker.” “Our standing explanation is that we have never gotten on a first name basis,” she explained with a smile. “Seriously, when we met, he was introduced to me as ‘Parker.’ I liked the name and continued to use it.”
Family comes first for Bill and Patsy who are very proud of their children and grandchildren. Their son William A. Parker, Jr. (Bill), an OHS and Auburn University graduate, is a development officer at Auburn University in the School of Business. His wife Amy teaches at West Forest Elementary School. They have four children, Daniel Aaron, who is a thirtd year law student, Alaina, 16, Alexis, 11, and William III (Alec) 8.
Their daughter Nancy Parker Boyd is an OHS graduate and a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Communications. Nancy is anchor at WVUE Fox News in New Orleans, La. She has received Emmy awards, Associated Press awards, and Edward R. Murrow awards. Nancy recently received the Burt Banks University of Alabama 2015 Outstanding Alumni School of Communications Award. Her husband Glynn, a former TV anchor and Emmy winner, is presently the Public Information Officer of the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office. They have three children, Parker, 15 and twins Piper and Pierce, 10.
Although Bill doesn’t like to talk about himself, Patsy welcomes the opportunity to talk about him. “He is a wonderfully compassionate and loving father, husband, uncle, son, and role model to those who know him. He is quiet, but strong in his faith and his moral values,” Patsy said.
Bill has the same praise for Patsy, identifying her as the most influential person in his life. He adds, “She supports me in any undertaking and has always encouraged me to fulfill my goals. She is the wind beneath my wings.”