Parker Thomas Hess, former Ashland Postmaster and a longtime resident of Ashland, Ore., passed away June 13, 2011, at a foster home in Medford, Ore. He was 93.
Born on June 14, 1917, in Riggins, Idaho, Parker was the eighth of ten children born to Jennie Hess and Allen Orville Hess. After moving around during the first decade of his life, Parker's family settled in Ashland, Ore., in 1927. Three years later, tragedy befell the family following the sudden death of Parker's mother and the economic difficulties of the Great Depression.
After living briefly in Jacksonville, Ore., following his mother's passing, Parker returned to Ashland and made the town his permanent home. During his teenage years, the community of Ashland took Parker under its wing and allowed him to grow and thrive despite his trying family circumstances. He held various jobs to make ends meet, and for several years he lived on A.E. "Ally" Powell's enclosed back porch and then at the local fire hall. In 1936, he graduated from Ashland High School, where he was a star athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. He briefly attended Southern Oregon Normal School until financial difficulties arose. During World War II, he was stationed in San Francisco, Calif., as a Naval Shore Patrol Officer.
In February 1941, Parker married Gertie Wenner, an Ashland native and his lifelong soulmate. Together they raised three children and were married for over seven decades.
Throughout his adult life, Parker was a well-known fixture in the Ashland community. He was the town's first motorcycle police officer, and from 1951 to 1973, he served as Postmaster of the local Post Office. Over the years, Parker was also a sports referee, Boy Scout leader, Rotarian, and local billiards champion. He attended the Methodist and Presbyterian churches and belonged to the Toastmasters and Postmasters clubs. He participated in local coffee klatches nearly every morning for over half a century. In 2006, Parker and his wife, Gertie, served as Grand Marshals of the 4th of July Parade. In 2009, Parker was recognized for 70 years of service with the local Elks Lodge. More important than the memberships and activities, however, Parker treasured and supported the community of Ashland, from the high school athletes of the day to local business owners and their employees to friends and neighbors he met over the years.
In retirement, Parker and Gertie enjoyed traveling. Parker was foremost a family man, and he cared deeply about the well being of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
He is survived by his wife, Gertie; sons, Steve (Billie) Hess, of Sun City West, Ariz., and Tod (Peggy) Hess, of Beaverton, Ore.; daughter, Susan Yates, of Ashland, Ore.; grandchildren, Paul (Tam) Hess, Mark (MinhHai) Hess, Frank Honts, Melinda (Honts) (Chris) Williamson, Natalie (Glen) Long, and Stephanie (Mark) Spohnhauer; 14 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
His family recalls many fond memories of Parker/Dad/Gramps: going fishing, hunting, and camping, taking walks and playing in Lithia Park, singing silly children's songs, watching home movies, listening to bedtime stories, and laughing along with his practical jokes. The family will remember his undying humor and love of laughter in every aspect of his life. He will be missed.
A celebration of Parker's life will be held Saturday, July 2, 2011, at the First Presbyterian Church, Siskiyou and Walker, at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made either to the Ashland Schools Foundation, 100 Walker Avenue, Ashland, or the Ashland Elks Lodge No. 944, Harrison Scholarship Fund, PO Box 569, Ashland. Arrangements by Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home, (541) 482-2816.