Esther L. (Rooney) Parker, 85, resident of Great Falls, died Thursday of natural causes at a local hospital.
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Visitation is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Croxford Funeral Home. A vigil is 7 this evening at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. Funeral Mass is Tuesday at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph's, with burial to follow at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Esther was born October 18, 1924 in Hobson, Montana, to Frank and Mary Rooney. She grew up on the family ranch with her 12 brothers and sisters in the Ross Fork area and graduated Valedictorian from Moore High School and attended Northern Montana University.
After leaving college, Esther moved to Great Falls during WWII and worked civil service at East Base Hospital, now known as Malmstrom Air Force Base. It was while working at East Base that she met Army Air Corpsman Medic Al Parker. They married on Dec. 1, 1943 in Great Falls. She moved to Fresno, California while Al was in the military. After being discharged she moved to Al's home town of Fort Worth, Texas for a year. Montana called them home to Lewistown, then to her longtime home of Great Falls in 1947. They moved to the west side, where she raised their three children; Gary, Karen and Pat. After Al suffered a serious accident in 1961, Esther returned to work at First National Bank and then at Great Falls High School as a Records Clerk, where she retired. Gary graduated as a GFH Bison but Karen and Pat both graduated as CMR Rustlers; she loved to harass them by decorating the house with Bison blue and white memorabilia.
Esther was an avid reader, worked crossword puzzles, and was a very avid sports enthusiast, especially watching the Braves, and cheering on her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren playing baseball, softball, or whatever event they were participating in. She was known for always having the best fresh-baked cookies, and at anyone's request would bake their favorites. At family reunions she always received the award for Best Cookie Baker. For 47 years she was a bowling fanatic. At one time she bowled on three leagues a week and was still always available to substitute bowl at the drop of a phone call.
She was extremely proud of her Irish heritage, and a highlight was when she and Karen made a memorable trip to Ireland in 1991. She was dearly loved by all of her family and was the happiest at family gatherings; she was always hospitable and her home was always open to everyone. She was a gentle, kind and classy person who was loved and will be missed by her family and all who knew her.
Survivors include her husband of 66 years, Al Parker; daughter Karen (Dan) Griffin; son Pat (Becky) Parker; grandchildren Shad (Holly) Griffin, Shane (Staci) Griffin, Jami Cohen, Mandy (Cliff) Garness, Kelly (Scott) Weinberger, Cody (Sara) Parker, Roni (Mike) Baker and Gerri (John) Campbell; great-grandchildren Emma Griffin, Hunter and Brooklyn Griffin, Waric and Quinn Cohen, Jake and Kade Garness, Caitlin and Payton Parker, Andee and Adam Baker, and Adessa and Parker Campbell; sisters Betty (Bob) Saxbury, Mickie (Howard) Stone and Kay (Ed) Lane; numerous loved nieces and nephews also survive her.
She was preceded in death by her beloved son Gary Parker; her granddaughter Cindy Parker; her parents Frank and Mary Jane Rooney; her brothers, Frank Rooney, Russell Rooney and George Rooney; and by her sisters, Agatha Funston, Gertrude Lindgren, Vivian Shaw, Bernice Rooney and Ilene Waite.
At the time she passed, she was surrounded by her family who all loved her dearly.
Memorials in her name are suggested to St. Joseph's Catholic Church or charity of donor's choice. Condolences may be posted online at www.croxfordfuneralhome.com and/or www.gftribune.com/obituaries.
Published in Great Falls Tribune from Apr. 25 to Apr. 26, 2010