Orin Dean Parker

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1923 ~ 2014

Orin Dean Parker, 90, passed away Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in his home in Oceanside, Calif.
Orin was the grandson of Wyman Mynard Parker who founded the town of Parker, Idaho, where he was born on June 5, 1923, as the youngest of five children to Laura Vawdrey Parker, only three months after his father, Lionel Parker, died unexpectedly. He moved shortly thereafter to St. Anthony, Idaho, and graduated from St. Anthony High School in 1941. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications from Brigham Young University. He married Rita Clement on Feb. 20, 1951, in the LDS temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Orin's service in the war first opened his eyes to the world, and he was determined to seek a life of learning and travel. Shortly after finishing college, where he first met Rita, he moved east to Washington, D.C. and bigger opportunities. While waiting for security clearance for a government job that would take him abroad, he worked as assistant director in TV for the local NBC station and then as Assistant Public Information Officer at Walter Reed Army Hospital. It was during this same period that Orin and Rita realized how much they missed and loved each other and they were soon married in the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City.
The learning and travel quickly followed, along with children, as he was posted first to Athens, Greece. Not long after completing a course in Arabic, he was sent to Ankara, Turkey. In between overseas postings, he and his growing family resided in the Washington, D.C. area. Wherever they lived, they made life-long friends. In 1960, he joined American Friends of the Middle East (AFME), a non-profit educational organization, and took Rita and their four children to Baghdad, Iraq, where he opened their local office. A fifth child was born during their five years in Baghdad. Upon their return to the states, they settled in Bethesda, Md., and over the next six years, Orin worked his way up in the organization to become executive vice president. AFME grew under his leadership and was renamed AMIDEAST, Inc.
In 1971, Orin began his final posting overseas in Beirut, Lebanon. After four idyllic years there, civil war erupted, and the next three years were particularly challenging for the family. Along with his efforts to keep the office functioning and his family safe, he used that time to begin writing his first novel, "Burial in Beirut." Upon his return to the U.S. in 1979, he was made president of AMIDEAST. By the time he retired in 1988, he was honored by the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs as one of 40 Americans who had impacted foreign student affairs in a major way. He spent his years in retirement with Rita in Oceanside, writing and publishing family history and six more novels.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orin also served in various ecclesiastical capacities throughout his lifetime, including counselor in the Chevy Chase Ward bishopric and most memorably as president of the Beirut Branch. In Baghdad and Beirut, he and Rita hosted visiting church leaders. Following retirement, they also served as missionaries in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and as ordinance workers in the LDS Temple in San Diego, Calif.
Orin is survived by his wife, Rita, and their five children, each born in a different country: Jeffrey Lionel Parker, of Redondo Beach, Calif.; Tanya Parker Mills, of St. George, Utah; Jamilla Nelson, of Oceanside, Calif.; Leslie Parker Ball, of The Dalles, Ore.; and David Clement Parker of Vista, Calif. He is survived, as well, by 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Lionel Ray Parker and Gerald Nephi Parker, and his sisters, Laura May Parker, Emily Parker White and Cleone Parker Dixon.
A memorial service was held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 1545 S. Melrose Drive, Vista, Calif. A military graveside service to bury his ashes will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9 at the Parker Cemetery in Parker, Idaho.
Published in Rexburg Standard Journal on Aug. 7, 2014
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