Bryan L. Parnell

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The "Old Professor" Bryan L. Parnell passed away on April 14 at the age of 84. He was born Sept 25, 1929 at Dearing in the Missouri "bootheel"; the only child of Lester and Bessie Parnell. During WW II Bryan's Family moved to St. Louis to work in the munitions plants. He graduated from Soldan High School class of 45, where he was an outstanding music student. He worked the St. Louis Street corners selling papers during the WW II to help with family income needs. When he became old enough, he was a vendor at Sportman's Park for the St. Louis Browns. He also worked for the St. Louis Cardinals during the time of the All St Louis World Series in 1944. He got to work every game of that series because of his favored vendor status with both ball clubs. After the Browns left town Bryan became a Cardinal's fan. Bryan's love of music would forever be the foundation upon which his life was built and propelled him to attend college at South East Missouri State College where he was a member of the band. He met his eventual wife Mary Ellen Middleton in the band over a disagreement on how to play a note on a French horn. The director appropriately enough claimed they were both right. During Bryan's college years at SEMO he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve (8 years), married his band sweetheart and had their marriage announced in the Ladies Home journal. Bryan signed a teaching contract with the tiny school of Holcomb Mo. To supplement income Bryan worked at The Raspberry Cotton Gin moving bales and Bryan, Mary and infant son lived in "3 rooms and a path." After 4 years he was accepted in the Masters of Music Education program at the University of Michigan. During his tenure with the U OF M marching Wolverine band he was known as POP because he was one of the few graduate students to be asked to march and be married and with a son. He was 24. Bryan then went on to become Director of Bands at Charleston High School in SE Missouri where under his direction the Bands and ensemble groups became state champions in most categories between 1957-62. During that time, his marching bands were crowd favorites everywhere they went, whether bowl parades, governors inaugural parades, regional veterans and holiday parades or half time shows for St Louis Cardinal and Cincinnati Bengals pro football games. His crowd pleasing Show Band was famous for their marching cadence (extremely fast), their Uniforms (still in use around the US today) and their theme song (St. Louis Blues March)-all 3 developed, designed and arranged by their director,. For his alma mater, Michigan Band, Bryan wrote their SUPER BOWL National Televised halftime show, "A Tribute to Irving Berlin U.S Composer" Mr. Berlin called Bryan thanked him, asked how he had arranged the music for Marching Band which had not ever been done before and sent him a hand signed letter of thanks which is a family heirloom. While a Doctorial student at Indiana University he met Hoagy Carmichael of "Stardust" Fame and got to discuss piano styling's with the famous composer. In 1963 Bryan and family moved to Oakland City College in southern Indiana to establish an instrumental music department at the small Christian School. In the span of 10 years Bryan went from Band director to, Music dept. Chairman, to Chairman of the Fine Arts Division to Academic Dean. In 1974 Bryan was then recruited by Wabash Valley College in Mt Carmel, III to create a new Fine Arts Division. Bryan was the driving force behind a strong community outreach program through the college to the surrounding area through music, musicals, and plays. His basketball jazz band was a source of community pride. In the June of 1979 he was selected acting President of the College. Bryan and Mary relocated to Midland in 1984 at the request of Rudy Kuzmich owner of R K petroleum. Since their son and Daughter were already living here, they eagerly accepted. Bryan was able to resume his love of entertaining by becoming "the Old Professor" playing dinner piano at all of the area country clubs, plus the Petroleum Club, Plaza Club, and Pinnacle Club. Bryan often played weddings, receptions and private parties for prominent groups. Bryan re-entered the Education Profession by becoming Head Master at Permian Basin High School. In 1993 Bryan and Mary began a 15 year run as owners of Soccer Etc. which was an innovator in helping promote recreational as well as select youth soccer in the Permian Basin. They were the sponsors of the Cinco De Mayo International Tournament for 10 years. Bryan and Mary closed Soccer Etc in 2007 and retired to Ft Worth in 2008 they continued to enjoy retirement, traveling and seeing their Metroplex family more often and watching it multiply and grow. Bryan is survived by wife Mary Ellen of Ft. Worth; son Steve and wife Tre of Midland; daughter Rebecca Witte and husband Steve of Ft. Worth; grandson Sean Parnell and his wife Hillary and their children Presley, Finley and Kolby of Frisco; grandson Timothy Parnell and wife Alison and their child Carmyn of North Richland Hills A Celebration of Life Service will be held for Bryan on Sat the 28th of June at 10:30 am at (the Dollye Neal Chapel at Midland College. The family encourages all friends and acquaintances who wish to attend to please do so. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Bryan Parnell Memorial Scholarship Fund at Wabash Valley College. Condolences for the family along with questions on how to donate to the scholarship fund can be emailed to

Published in Midland Reporter-Telegram on May 18, 2014
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