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Charles and Barbara in their spectacular back yard in Texas


 July 12, 1935 to October 2, 2015

A Man for All Seasons

Nicknamed “Sonny” by his parents, Charles Albert Parker, Sr.—a strapping Southerner who perceived his role in life as caring for his sprawling family, adhering to his Baptist faith, and contributing to his fellow man—died in a plane crash on October 2nd, 2015. He was 80 years old.

planeSonny—a consummate pilot who took every precaution, followed every flight rule, often saw to the mechanics himself—was flying his brother-in-law’s Piper Comanche the day of the tragedy.

Flying was something Sonny had done for years. In partnership with his brother-in-law, Bob Jensen, he owned five planes over the years and was an “experienced pilot,” Sonny’s son David said. In this instance, he was test-flying Jensen’s plane after installing a new battery and was preparing to land when something went wrong. The NTSB has yet to rule on the cause.

Sonny’s family, unable to obtain a reason for the crash for at least six months, remain in deep shock and unspeakable sorrow over his passing.

All about family

Flying airplanes hardly defined Sonny’s existence. An auto mechanic by trade, owner of his own automotive repair shop, Parker Automotive, in Jacint0 City TX, he was all about family, his precious wife and partner of 60 years, Barbara, and their three children, Charles Albert, Jr., David Neal, and Patricia (Patty) Faye.

And, oh, yes, his ten siblings.

The oldest of five brothers and four sisters born to Albert and Ethel Parker, young Sonny came into the world in Shreveport, Louisiana, on July 12, 1935. His father, also an auto mechanic, began Parker Automotive in Oil City, and Sonny grew up in the business.


Sonny (2nd from left in back) and nine of his siblings

Although the Parker family expanded to eleven children (another of Albert’s sons was discovered much later), the four-room family home in Oil City remained miniscule by any standard. Sonny and his many sisters and brothers existed in 900-square-feet of living space, minus running water, electricity, or a bathroom.

An outhouse sat in the back yard, and drinking and bath water were retrieved from rain that drained off the tin roof and fell into a barrel. Ironically, the water tasted wonderful. Sonny’s father even hooked a line to a nearby oil well so as to obtain natural gas for a stove to cook meals and heat the house.

Hardship only increased his joy in life

Sonny’s growing up years taught him how to overcome obstacles and find creative solutions to problems. It imbued him with a cheerful, confidant spirit and only increased his joy in life, as well as his gratitude for every luxury he was later able to afford. Along the way, he became expert at numerous pursuits: hunting, fishing, archery, carpentry, welding, and flying— not to mention as a hunting guide, gun smith, horseman, and Baptist Sunday school teacher.

Many of the skills he had learned out of necessity as a youth became cherished pastimes as an adult.

In 1954, he met the love of his life, Barbara Faye White of Shreveport. The pretty, brunette was the twin sister of the girl Sonny’s best friend, Wesley Allen, was dating. Wesley introduced them and the connections was instant.

Barbara fell hard for the good-looking, 6-foot-1 Southerner with the deep, authoritative voice, clever asides and stimulating conversation. Sonny read extensively, books on all subjects, including the Bible, and had something of a photographic memory. He could remember dates, places and details about the most obscure subjects. Most significantly, he presented a large, welcoming presence, a man with a great sense of humor who neither drank nor smoked.

It didn’t hurt that Sonny drove the coolest hotrod in all of Shreveport, a souped-up, 1949 Lincoln Continental.

His own Parker Automotive

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Barbara and Sonny at home

In 1965, Sonny moved to Houston, where he later opened his own Parker Automotive. Since he wanted his dad to be part of the business, he brought his parents with him and purchased a house for them next door to the garage. That way, his parents would be close as they got older. Eventually, all of Sonny’s siblings moved to the Houston area.

Sonny also took immense pride in the fact that his customers would drive from miles around to have him work on their automobiles, trucks and recreational vehicles. They simply would not trust anyone else to fix their vehicles.

When Sonny and Barbara’s children, Charles, David and Patty, began to arrive, the couple couldn’t have been more thrilled. Sonny was a great dad, eager to impart to his children his genuine passion for life. He loved nothing better than attending the kids’ sporting events and taking them hunting and fishing.

In 1986, Sonny learned he had an older brother he never knew existed. His sister Marilyn discovered that their father, Albert, had had a son before marrying Ethel. His name was Ray. Marilyn contacted Ray, and he was thrilled to find that he had ten other siblings. From then on, he attended numerous family gatherings and became great friends with Sonny and the entire clan—up until he died in 2006.

 What he didn’t agree with he called “malarkey”

If Sonny disagreed with something, he had the habit of labeling it “malarkey.” If you told him something couldn’t be done, for example, it was malarkey because he could make it happen. But if someone asked him if he planned to attend some event or other, he always answered, “The Lord willing and the creek doesn’t rise.”

He could also seem formidable when discussing politics. A staunch Republican, he could be very opinionated and stubborn. In later life, it became almost comical, the way he would emphasize words, leaving a second between each. “I … Have … Never …. Heard … Of…”

A great provider, Sonny saw to it that his family never wanted for anything. They were the first in the neighborhood to get a colored television set, for example.  And, shortly before Sonny retired, when both he and Barbara fell in love with a home on six acres of land in Huntsville, TX, he bought it on the spot. Sonny liked the property because it was just outside of town, close to Lake Livingston, which offered great fishing, and had a big barn and room for horses.

Sonny added 2,000 square feet to the barn so he could tinker with his many hobbies and have even more room for his gunsmith activities and ever increasing projects. He re-loaded his own rifle shells, as well as customized his own crossbow arrows.

A place of solace, grandeur and peace

unnamed (2)The best thing about the property was that it backed up to the Sam Houston National Forest with thousands of acres of wilderness. Along with Lady, Sonny’s precious dog, deer, raccoons and all kinds of wildlife roamed about the spectacular backyard, a place of solace, grandeur and peace.

Then, in 2006 Barbara suffered a bad fall from her horse. Sonny and his wife had been riding in the back pasture when Sonny let go with a loud whistle. Startled, Barbara’s horse stopped dead and bucked her off. After that, she needed help around the house, so their daughter Patty Faye quit her job as a software instructor in Dallas, and moved into an apartment her father had just built next to their home.

Deep in his soul, Sonny—a Baptist deacon at the many churches he belonged to over the years—believed in doing good deeds for other. His form of tithing came in several ways, primarily by offering free car repair and construction work. After he retired in 2002, he dove into remodeling homes for pastors, song leaders and the elderly.

A friend to all

A familiar sight around town in his Bolo tie, cowboy hat and boots, he was known as a friend to all, a man who accomplished things, someone who never slowed down.

Sonny Parker was to leave for his 50th hunting trip to Colorado on Oct0ber, 14, 2015—just twelve days after his fatal crash. His hunting pals cancelled the trip.

He is survived by his wife Barbara of Huntsville, TX; his sons, Charles Albert Parker Jr and David Neal Parker and daughter Patricia Faye Parker.

Sonny was memorialized at the Sam Houston Memorial Funeral Home on October 9th; he is interred at Forest Park Lawndale in Houston, TX.


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