Parker, Virginia SARATOGA SPRINGS Virginia (Hayward) Parker died of natural causes on May 6, 2021, at home, with her son and grandson at her side. She was 97 years old. Born in East Douglas, Mass. on July 13, 1923, she was the daughter of Esther Morse Hayward and William L. Hayward, a prominent New England woolen manufacturer. Virginia grew up in Franklin, Mass. with a love of horses and art. She survived a bout with polio, and lived through both World War II and the Great Depression. After graduating from Dean Academy, Virginia lived briefly in New York City, Texas, and Acton, Mass. In 1953, her love of horse racing brought her to Saratoga Springs, where she established Top Rail Farm, the breeding and training facility where she lived for 68 years. Her first two marriages, first to Show Horse Hall of Fame horseman Robert J. Burke, and second to George Morse, ended in divorce. In the 1960s, she met and married Hall of Fame harness trainer Harold Parker, and together they ran a successful stable of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, including 1975 Horse of the Year, Riff Raff. After Mr. Parker's death in 1983, she continued her hands-on approach to running the farm - working as hard as any stable hand and still driving her tractor at the age of 90. Top Rail Farm continues to operate today under the oversight of her grandson, equine veterinarian Dr. Stowe Burke. Virginia was a skilled artist, having studied in her youth at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City with celebrated illustrator and instructor Harvey Dunn. She was also an avid collector, traveling to artists' studios both at home and abroad to purchase work. She enjoyed an active social life, at times feeding her horses in heels on her way to the races, and loved dinners out with friends while designating her own oven as storage space. She will be remembered always as a hard worker, a fun-loving friend, and a proud grandmother who lived and died exactly as she wanted. In addition to her grandson and his wife Caroline Burke, she is survived by her son, Gregg Burke and his wife Darlene Post Burke; her great-grandchildren, Minnie and Henry Burke; and numerous step-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her sister Barbara Hayward Greaves; and brother Bill Hayward. Services will be held in the Greenridge Cemetery on Saturday, May 15, at 10 a.m. Donations may be made in her name to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, 42 Arneytown-Hornerstown Rd., Cream Ridge, NJ 08514 or at www.adoptahorse.org/donate
or TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program Inc., P.O. Box 21028, Floral Park, NY, 11002 or at www.take2tbreds.com/make-a-donation
. Arrangements are under the direction of the William J. Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Home, Saratoga Springs. Online remembrances may be made at burkefuneralhome.com
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Published by Albany Times Union on May 13, 2021.