NEWPORT - Virginia E. Parker, 90, of Newport, died Thursday, July 9, 2015, at the Woodlawn Care Facility, after a period of declining health.
Born the fifth and last child of Fred C. and Hallie E. (Hinschillwood) Parker on Dec. 28, 1924, at the family home on 83 South Main St., (Newport), she was the only girl among the four older brothers who learned well her brothers' sports lessons. She attended Newport schools, including Sunday School at the South Congregational Church across the street, graduating from Towle High School, Class of 1942, where she lettered in spirit, skiing and field hockey. The Newport training set the stage for her undergraduate activity at the University of New Hampshire, Class of 1946, where she participated in field hockey, ski team, softball, the UNH Outing Club and was vice president of the Women's Recreation Association, inducted into the Tau Kappa Alpha Forensic and Sigma Beta Biology Societies. She went on to graduate work at Boston University, earning a master's of education, 1955, followed by additional graduate work at Columbia University and University of Bridgeport.
Jinny's (with a "J", not a "G" she would remind us) 35-year teaching career launched at Kents Hill Prep School in Maine, 1946-51, was followed by Berlin's Junior-Senior High School, 1951-54, and finally Staples High School, Westport, Conn., 1955-1981. While in Maine, her own skiing skills were put to use as chairman of a Charter Member of the Maine Ski Council's Girls and Women's Racing Committee, who then directed the first Maine Girls Ski Championship. As her teaching and coaching professionalism matured, she participated in related organizations: Am. Assoc. of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (1946-1981), the affiliates of the National Education Assoc. in Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, the Conn. High School Coaches Assn, and the Coaches Assn for Fairfield County (Conn.) and Delta Kappa Gamma Intl, a women educator's honor society. In Berlin, she served as a national basketball referee and judge who then taught courses on refereeing.
At Staples for 26 years, Jinny coached girls' track and field, basketball, softball, field hockey, intramurals and cheerleading. "She blazed a trail a decade before Title IX legislation was enacted in 1972 (Connecticut Post, 2/4/94)." The quote goes on to say that "(Jinny) started the track and field team at Staples in 1961, we either had five or six girls on the first team." "Her teams won several state titles in all sports but it was in track and field that they truly excelled. Staples won several FCIAC (Fairfield County's Athletic Assn) and state titles and competed in the Am Athletic Union (AAU) competition during the summers. Her (Jinny's) style and effectiveness made her a nationally recognized expert in track and field, according to Linda Wooster, then coordinator of women's athletics at Quinnipiac College who stated that she was a pioneer in girls' track and field in the state. She became the driving force behind the acceptance of girls' track and field as a major sports activity by the Conn Interscholastic Athletic Conference." Her professional activities included Conn. Track & Field Chairman (1965-70), U.S. AAU Track rules Committee, (1968-70), co-authorship of Track & Field for Girls and Women, W.B. Saunders Series, 1969, Conn representative to the National Assn of Girls and Women's Sports, Estes Park, Col, 1971, and a member of the Board of Directors Fairfield County Coaches Assoc. (1976-1981).
Jinny's many awards illustrate the esteem of her colleagues and students. Twenty years out of UNH in 1966, she began to be singled out, first for Westport's Town Crier Special Coaches Award (‘66) and then Teacher of the Year two years later from the Univ of Bridgeport (‘68). From the Conn High School Coaches Assn came Coach of the Year in Field Hockey (‘76) and then Track (‘79), followed by in 1980 the National H.S. Athletic Coaches Assn District 1 Coach of the Year in Track and in 1981, induction into the Conn High School Coaches Assn Hall of Fame. In the 1990s more than 10 years after retirement, she received recognition by: New Agenda Northeast, Women's Hall of Fame (‘92), National Assn for Girls & Women's Sports' Pathfinder Award (‘94), Fairfield County (Conn.) Interscholastic Athletic Conference Hall of Fame (‘97), and University of New Hampshire Wildcat Winner's Circle, Hall of Honor (‘97). At Staples High School, there is now a Virginia E. Parker playing field, dedicated in 2002. She was thrilled with its electronic scoreboard and 2014's new bleachers! The Conn Field Hockey Coaches Assn inducted her in 2003 into its Hall of Fame.
Jinny never questioned where she would retire - it was a question of when. She saw her older brothers, Dick and Ron, retiring so that was that. She wanted to come home to Newport, and her much-loved house on Beverly Street. She and her best friend, Betty Parker, who predeceased her in 2002, played endless rounds of golf as members of Newport's John Cain golf club, pieced together the family genealogies, and visited England and Scotland several times. She was devoted to the Ladies Bowling League, volunteering at the Newport Senior Center and the Richards Free Library, where she served two terms as a trustee, member of the building committee and general volunteer with the annual book sale. She cherished to the end her long lasting friendships with "her" girls, corresponding with former students for decades past their high school graduations. Many in the last year mentioned to her how she influenced their lives. In October 2014, Jinny grinned from ear to ear when told by Woodlawn's Administrator that she had been inducted as a member of Newport's High School Hall of Fame.
The family thanks all Woodlawn Staff who cared for Jinny (with a "J") Parker for their consistently dedicated, compassionate and skilled care. She truly felt "at home and cared for" in your presence. Thank you also to Sugar River Bank's customer relations division who often helped Jinny.
Jinny's family surviving her include nieces and nephews: Mary Parker Warren, Ft. Collins, Colo., Robert M. Parker and Joy of Dryden, N.Y., James C. Parker and Jan Williams of McMinnville and John Day, Oregon, and Susan B. Parker and Libby G. Ginnetti, Greenland and E. Lempster, NH. Grand nieces and nephews include brothers Zach and Ben Warren (Utah & Wash. State), sister and brother Emily and Wes Parker (Colorado & N.Y.), brother and sister Ethan and Miriam Parker (Bickle) (Oregon), and brothers Jeffrey and Mark Avery, Fairlee, Vermont.
Jinny was predeceased by her parents, four brothers and two sisters in law: Stanley W., Vernon G., Richard D. and Robbie M. Parker, and Ronald E. and Elizabeth W. Parker..
SERVICES: There will be no visiting hours per Jinny's request. Rev. Craig Cowing, pastor, South Congregational Church, will officiate at the graveside committal services scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, 2 p.m., at the North Newport Cemetery. The family suggests that memorial contributions in her name be made to the senior citizens' Outreach Program and mailed to: Sullivan County Nutrition Services, c/o Wendy Callum, P.O. Box 387, Newport, NH 03773. Arrangements have been entrusted to the Newton-Bartlett Funeral Home, 42 Main St., Newport.
Published in Union Leader on Jul. 16, 2015.