Lewis Parker

by Mary Camarillo

special to the LW Weekly

Lewis Parker, a 19-year resident of Mutual 10, is looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday on Sept. 3. He was born in Morristown, Tennessee, to Hubert Adrian Parker, a teacher and Postal Service railway mail clerk, and Mary Flavia Converse, a teacher. Lew had three younger sisters: Helen, Brooks and Martha. He is the only surviving sibling. 

Lewis grew up in the College Park neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in chemical engineering at Ohio State. 

During World War II, the US Air Force sent him to New York University to become a meteorologist and then stationed him in Europe as a weather officer in the Ninth Airforce. Military land, sea and air campaigns were highly dependent on weather forecasts during World War II. Lewis still knows the scientific name of every cloud in the sky.

He married his childhood friend Mary Alma Brice in 1950. Alma’s father also worked for the Postal Service as a railway mail clerk. Besides growing up in the same neighborhood, Lewis and Alma shared a love of family, travel, theater, music and dancing. Stylish dressers, they made a handsome couple on the dance floor. 

He and Alma had three children, Mary Lewis, David Hubert and McDonald “Don” Eugene.

Lewis worked as a chemical engineer for Texaco, DuPont and Douglas Boeing in Camden, South Carolina; and Charlotte, North Carolina. 

In 1966, Douglas Boeing transferred Lew from Charlotte to Santa Monica, California. The Parker family made an adventure out of the cross-country trip. Each child chose one place in the United States that they wanted to visit. Mary picked Yellowstone National Park, David picked The Mint in Denver, Colorado, and Don picked the Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky. 

The family settled in Fountain Valley. Lew and Alma opened Parker Printing, an offset print shop in the early 1970s. In 1976, they sold the business and moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where they started another print shop. They lived in Corvallis for more than 25 years before moving to Leisure World.

Lew says that his favorite memories are from his time in Corvallis because it was “a small town, but not too small.” He and Alma made lifelong friends. They enjoyed going to hear music at Oregon State University. They started a recycling program and were active in a “Beyond War” group and the Rotary Club. They traveled the world from the former Yugoslavia to the jungles of Nicaragua and particularly enjoyed Elderhostel Tours (now known as Road Scholar.)

While living in Corvallis, Lew and Alma became close friends with Aline Zhang and her two small children, Jing and William. Jing and William have families of their own now and consider Lew and Alma to be their adopted grandparents. William named his daughter, born in January 2022, “Alma,” saying “If the baby was a boy, his name would have been ‘Lew’.”

Alma died in April 2019. Lewis continues to live independently, saying he’s learned to be “a pretty good microwave chef.” He enjoys keeping up with current events, Zooming daily with several Leisure World groups and Face Timing weekly with his son David and his grandsons Daan and Sam in The Netherlands. He loves going out to breakfast at Denny’s with his California family, especially when his grandchildren Katy and Steven Parker are able to join him. 

Katy describes her grandfather as “intelligent and modest with a playful sense of humor.” Steven says whenever the family is together, his grandfather “always says or does something to make everyone laugh.”

Lew’s son David says his father “remains full of curiosity and interest in the world and his family. He’s very interested in politics but somehow remains calm and balanced despite all the polarization of our society these days.” 

If you ask Lewis how he is doing he will always say “I’m upright.” Staying upright are excellent words to live by. 

Happy One Hundred Years, Lewis!

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