Jerry Lee Parker, father and grandfather, brother and husband, writer and poet, educator and social justice activist, of Oak Park, died on March 25, 2021. Born on June 27, 1941 in Peoria, he lived, learned, and loved for most of his life in Chicago and Oak Park.
He spent much of his work life as an educator in both public schools and in adolescent mental health. He once wrote that his dream as an educator was to “touch off joybursts in students’ minds … to stir students’ wonder to commit to creating impassioned, terse, lucid words.” He found the heart of his calling in his later life’s work in social activism as a self-described “creative extremist for love.” His mission, as he once wrote, was to “struggle hard and well to budge this old world a bit more wonderful.”
He believed in the power and legacy of love, peace, community, non-violence, and democracy. His creativity and community engagement thrived within and across his writing, work, peaceful acts of protest, and volunteer work, finding both coalitions and community among friends and like-minded seekers of a better and more just world. He was also a proud and committed member of Third Unitarian Church in Austin for 37 years. A former reverend at Third Unitarian said of him, “The intensity of his commitment to peace and justice issues seemed matched only by his unflagging kindness in all circumstances.”
Jerry will be missed as father to Josh (wife Lynsey) and Brad (wife Danielle); husband to Susan, brother to Jody, grandfather to Skylar and Louisa, and friend and ally to many. His family and friends will always remember his gentle love and kindness, his critical and curious mind, his humble wisdom and humor, and his unique spirit and presence. Rest in love and peace, Jerry/Dad/Pops. We love you so much.
The Parkers are planning a Celebration of Life at Third Unitarian Church when it is safe to gather in-person. Cards can be sent to Susan Parker at 149 N. Lombard, Oak Park 60302.