Thomas Parker

Date of Death

Thomas Parker had a great 100th year.
He had a front row seat at his granddaughter’s wedding in January.
He was honored for his military service in the La Canada Memorial Day Parade.
He was treated to an awesome 100th birthday celebration in Pasadena with children, cousins, nieces and nephews flying in from all over the country.
Up until eight weeks ago, he was still driving, taking a daily tour of La Cañada and circling the Rose Bowl on his way to McDonald’s for a Big Mac.
He definitely lived all 100 years.
Thomas Alton Parker, a former UCLA teammate of Jackie Robinson, a devoted father and a resident of La Cañada for 50 years, passed away Jan. 5 at the young age of 100.
He was born in western Texas on May 15, 1922, to Jesse Alton Parker and Roberta Baylor Hooks. They lived in a three-room adobe house in El Paso, where his father, Jesse, worked as a pharmacist. They spent holidays and weekends at their family ranch, Polley Manor, near San Antonio, now listed in the Historical Registry.
In 1931, after a flood melted their adobe house and flooded out the family business, they packed up and moved to Los Angeles, moving in with cousins.
Tom Parker grew up with his older brother, Bob, who was his hero. Tom was a decent student, a great cartoonist, and he loved school but mostly loved his friends, many of his childhood friends he spent time with throughout his life.
Times were tough in the Depression-era 1930s, but Jesse Parker secured a great job with the rail yards. The family moved to East Los Angeles, where Tom attended Robert Louis Stevenson Junior High and Garfield High School. He excelled in gymnastics and football, but especially excelled in personality and bad jokes and was elected class president. A Boy Scout, he spent weekends and summers hiking and camping in the local mountains and would later hitchhike across the West — from Texas to Idaho to Washington — with teen friends.
In 1940, he started at UCLA, and made the football team as a running back in the shadow of the great Jackie Robinson. He liked to joke, “Jackie was just a little faster than me.” Tom was also a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, where he gained even more lifelong friends.
In his sophomore year, Pearl Harbor changed everything. Tom was an ROTC candidate, so he stayed at UCLA for another two years in that program, while working night shifts at Uniroyal Tire, making Jeep and airplane tires for the war effort.
In 1944, he shipped out to Fort Benning, N.C., where he served as a lieutenant infantry arms training officer. He was deployed to the Philippines in 1945 as a Captain and served as base commander for ordinance services.
By late 1945, the war was ending, and a new colonel came to run the base, along with his wife and beautiful daughter. Capt. Parker’s spirited personality soon won the heart of the colonel’s daughter. That next year, Tom and Mary Jean were married in the Philippines.
When Tom was discharged, the newlyweds stayed in the Philippines to be close to Mary Jean’s family, still stationed there.
He went to work for Procter & Gamble and traded commodities, especially lumber, copra, and steel. They had a daughter, Linda, in the Philippines in 1949.
They returned to Los Angeles to Monterey Park, where their son, Bill, was born on Christmas Day 1952. Thereafter, the pursuit of his career took the couple from Los Angeles to San Francisco where two more sons were born, David in 1957 and Robert in 1960.
Tom later received a great opportunity with a door company and the family moved to Michigan, where Tom presented Mary Jean a brand-new convertible Mustang for Christmas (it was a bribe). But Mary Jean was much fonder of the California winters, so the family soon packed up the cars and a U-Haul truck and returned to Southern California, ending up in La Cañada in 1968.
Tom was a master in his field. He was chosen by his peers as president of the Plywood Importers Association. He sold much of the plywood used to build homes across Southern California in the 1960s and 1970s. It was a wild business and Tom took many trips to the Far East. Tom semi-retired in the early 1980s when his interest in building and drawing cartoons took a turn. Tom taught himself how to use computer-aided architectural software and became a building designer.
He designed dozens of commercial buildings in Glendale, Burbank and the San Fernando Valley as well as many homes in La Cañada. Clients included Baskin-Robbins, Disney, and many other local clients. When the 2008 recession hit, he started winding down his career and started spending a lot more time at McDonald’s with friends, holding court in the corner booth every morning for two decades.
He has lived many years here enjoying the local foothills, where he grew up enjoying so much time hiking and camping.
He leaves four children, Linda, Bill and his wife, Toni, David and his wife Patty, and Robert and his wife Amy.
Grandchildren, Rell, Tori and her husband Jeremiah, Paige, Payton and her husband Michael, Grant and Legacy, plus great-grandchildren, Milah, Jonah and Jaxon.
He will be missed by all.