February 28, 1915 – February 28, 2000
Senator Dave Parker Sr. started with the Friendship Centre Movement in the mid to late seventies after returning to the North Okanagan and beginning a new life of sobriety in 1975.
He was born in a shed on February 28, 1915 in Penticton, British Columbia and passed into the spirit world on his 85th birthday, February 28, 2000. He went to school at the Kamloops Indian Residential School until he and his younger brother, and only sibling, Richard were old enough to work. They both excelled in school and were soon working with their parents, Charlie and Cecelia Parker, in a variety of professions including trapping, prospecting, mining and the forest industry. There is a place northwest of Lillooet, BC named Parker Bar – so named after them because of the way they were able to move the big boulders to get the gold beneath. Dave was also quite a musician, learning to play the guitar, banjo, fiddle, cello, mouth organ and keyboard and was very popular at dances, music halls, local bars and people’s homes. He was very well known for his music, but even more recognizable by his laugh. You may not have been able to see him, but you knew he was around because of his laugh.
In the late thirties, like their father before them, in the First World War, Dave Parker Sr and Richard both joined the army for WWII, and like their schooling and the training given to them by their father, who had re-enlisted for the Home Guard, they once again excelled because they were mountain men, inured to a hard life on a hard land. They enlisted in Vernon, BC – Richard joining the infantry and Dave moved on by volunteering for just about everything they put on the table. Tanks were too boring for him because they put him to sleep, so he eventually ended up a paratrooper and then in the Special Forces. Like many soldiers after the war, seldom did he talk about it.
After the war, Dave married Lily May Bonneau in 1951 and had five children – Mary, Lorna, Barry, Dave Jr. and Sharon.
It was during this time that the alcohol got the better of him and caused havoc in his life and as a result his family was torn apart. It wasn’t until 1975, when once again alcohol got him into trouble and this time he made the decision to turn his life around. It was with the help of an officer of the court in Linden, Washington, that he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and attended the Central City Mission in Vancouver, BC. He said, “If people want to help me, maybe I should let them.” He returned to the North Okanagan, where he celebrated 25 years of sobriety, re-uniting with his children and remaining friends with his former wife Lily. He always made himself available to help anybody and everybody in their quest for sobriety. Dave called all the gifts of his sobriety – “Blessings”.
In 1975, he started to work with the Crossroads Treatment Centre as a night attendant and became associated with the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre Society in Kelowna, BC He returned to school (college), completed his Grade 12 and then became the Alcohol and Drug Counsellor at the Kelowna Friendship Centre. He wrote several articles for their newsletter and branched out to the First Nations Friendship Centre (formerly United Native Friendship Centre) in Vernon, BC. Dave had always been considered a knowledgeable person regarding his understanding and usage of the Okanagan language, myths and legends. He dedicated many hours of hard work towards the creation of Sen’klip Native Theatre Company and participated in some of their productions as a Consultant for them. He also did many interviews for Kla How Ya Communications, a program of the First Nations Friendship Centre and later appeared in many video productions.
After his family, his first love was for his people. Dave prayed in the Okanagan language to open many different functions and occasions, Annual General Assemblies, political round table discussions and Okanagan Nation Gatherings as the resident Elder. He considered himself an Ambassador between the Okanagan Nation and all other First Nations and non-Aboriginal groups. He wanted to help preserve his language so he began to teach the language to anyone who wanted to learn. He made tape recordings, so that if he were unable to teach, his teachings would still be available. He also wrote a dictionary, translating all the English into Okanagan.
Senator Parker served on the Board of the Friendship Centres he was directly involved with and also on the Board for the BC Association of Native Disability Society (BCANDS). Through his association with many of the people he worked for, with and beside, he became known as quite a storyteller. He would often begin one of his stories with, “Well, you know”, or “I remember when”, all drawn out so the listener would get all excited before the story began.
Dave was a believer in the future and the future of the Friendship Centre Movement. He also believed in the youth of today and he was always very proud of the youth that were involved in the Movement. Their ideas, their energy and their willingness mixed with their stubborn resolve to make their dreams a reality was always one of his better stories to tell.
His brother Richard, along with his family and the Dave Parker family, all miss him deeply and feel they are truly blessed whenever they think of him.
Senator Dave Parker was a great man with many great stories to tell and share. He is missed by the Friendship Centre Movement and will be long remembered as our “Story telling Senator”.