Former Mer Rouge mayor Theodore James Parker Sr. will be remembered not only for his active participation in the community he called home, but for his personal strength and integrity as well.
“When he made decisions, he stuck by them,” said former Mer Rouge village clerk Jean Blackard. “If T.J. said something, you could bank on it.”
Parker, who passed away Saturday, servedd his country in both World War II and the Korean Conflict before returning to Mer Rouge, where he served as mayor from 1972-74 and from 1980-2004. Current Mer Rouge mayor Johnny McAdams served under Parker on the village council beginning in 1982.
“He was a true icon in Mer Rouge,” said McAdams. “He was always my mentor. Any time when I was faced with a tough decision, I would ask myself, 'What would T.J. do?'”
McAdams recalls one day in 1991, when he had gone out hunting and the overhead pipes in his home froze and burst.
“When I came in from hunting, T.J. was at my house sweeping out the water,” he said. “He was around for everything.”
Parker co-founded the Mer Rouge volunteer fire department, served as a deacon at Mer Rouge Baptist Church, and served as president with the board of directors of Oak Woods Home for the Elderly, among his many civic positions and contributions.
“He played a role in so many things,” said Blackard. “It didn't matter if he was mayor, [serving on] the city council or the fire department. If anybody had a problem and he knew about it, he was there. He was very dedicated.”
Recently, Parker and his wife, Mary Lou, were honored by the Wellspring Alliance for their longtime community service.
Parker was the owner of Parker Chevrolet and served on the Board of the Chevrolet Factory Dealer Council. Blackard's husband was the parts manager at the business for three decades.
“T.J. was good to our family,” she said. “He was the strongest man I've known, physically and mentally. He was not very big, but he didn't back down from anything.”
On one occasion while Parker was mayor, she said, Oak Woods planned a secret party in his honor.
“They called him and told him they were having some trouble out there and he needed to come right away,” said Blackard. “He showed up with police back-up, storming in with a gun strapped to his side. He had so much grit.
“Nothing held him back. He did whatever he wanted to do in life.”