Longtime Alaskan Walter Bruce Parker died peacefully at his Anchorage home on June 25 following a brief illness, surrounded by family and friends. A celebration of life will be held on his 88th birthday on August 11 at Hilltop Chalet, 6-9 p.m. Parker was born in Spokane in 1926. As a child, he heard about Alaska from his grandfather, who told him about his life in Nome during the Gold Rush. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Parker arrived in Fairbanks in 1946 with his bride Patricia Ertman. Their 55-year marriage lasted until her death in 2001. Parker studied at the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and George Washington University, and received degrees from the University of Alaska in history and anthropology in 1964 and an honorary Doctorate of Science in 1997. After 20 years as a CAA/FAA air traffic controller in Fairbanks, Lake Minchumina, and Anchorage, he worked for the FAA in Washington, DC as a northern air route planner. Parker then returned to Anchorage with the Federal Field Committee, a position that began his lifelong devotion to designing and regulating transportation and oil conveyance systems, satellite communications, sustainable resource development, and land use that respects rural ways of life. After retiring from federal service in 1971, Parker became an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska. He taught political science and planning courses while researching international fisheries and transportation, mentoring many of today's leaders in these fields. At this time, he and Patricia also formed Parker Associates, which until his death, contributed significant data to a number of transportation and communications projects. Also beginning in the early 1970s, Parker held many key appointments with the State of Alaska serving on the Fish and Game Board, in the Pipeline Office, and as Commissioner of Highways, Chairman of the Joint Federal/State Land Use Planning Commission, and Oil Spill Commission Chairman. President Clinton appointed him to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission in 1995. In these various roles, he helped to oversee Alaska's progression as a young state, influencing the formulation and implementation of such major legislation as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act , National Fisheries Act, Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act, and Oil Pollution Act. In Anchorage his legacy includes the extensive park and trail system established while he served on the Greater Anchorage Borough Assembly and in several citizen's groups. Parker's unwavering devotion to Alaska was accentuated by his service as a senior fellow at the Institute of the North at Alaska Pacific University. He recently served on the boards of the Prince William Sound Science Center, Oil Spill Recovery Institute, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council, Pacific Environment, and North Pacific Research Board. His recent honors include the Alaska Center for the Environment Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and the Walt Parker Sustainable Community Award as its first recipient in 2011. Survivors include brother Dr. Richard Parker of Maryland; children: Sandra Wassilie of California; Patrick Parker (Ruth) of Willow; Jeffery Parker of Anchorage; Douglas Parker (Janice) of Oregon; Lisa Parker (Stephen Horn) of Soldotna; grandchildren: Leonardo and Carl Wassilie, James Parker, Mary Rooney, and Nicholas Horn; and great-grandchildren: Isabelle and Bruce Wassilie, and Anabel Parker. The family remembers their father and "grampa" as an unselfish man whose door was open to all who cherish the goodness of the earth and its creatures, particularly sled dogs. He loved a lively dinner party to the end. He was a voracious reader, an imaginative storyteller, a hearty singer, a lover of opera and theater. His family saw Alaska from his bush plane or riverboat, and after moving to Anchorage in 1957, through dog mushing and frequent hikes or skiing trips in the Chugach Mountains. After his life in Minchumina, his most cherished time was traveling with Patricia within Alaska and internationally to almost every region of the world. The family suggests donations be made in his name to the Alaska Conservation Foundation, Alaska Moving Images Preservation Association, or Friends of Pets - Anchorage, Alaska.
Published in Alaska Dispatch News on July 6, 2014