Pastors' Memoirs

Robert P. Parker, 1917-1987

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My friendship with Bob Parker extended over most of our lives, from my college years at the time he accepted his first appointment as a minister in the Virginia conference of the Methodist Church, until his death following a second tenure as executive director of the Association of Educational Institutions of our conference. Like everyone who had the privilege of knowing this gifted minister and educator, I admired him and enjoyed his company.

Bob, who was born in Roanoke on June I3, I9l7, was unusually well prepared for the ministry of our denomination. The son of William Carlton and Mabel Plewes, he had the advantage of a fine Christian home and a loving family, which included his sister, Mary, and brothers, Bill, Alton and John. His nurturing in Greene Memorial Church, with its outstanding music, was an inspiration in his early life and helped foster his love of good music. After graduating from the public schools of Roanoke, he was a leader in the classroom and on the campus of Randolph-Macon College where he graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors. Following a year of teaching German at his alma mater, he excelled as a student at the Yale Divinity School and completed his Master of Divinity program magna cum laude. He later earned the Master of Education degree at the University of Virginia, and Randolph-Macon College conferred upon him the Doctor of Divinity degree. Throughout his lifetime, his love for learning and his extensive reading made him a lively member of any group. It was a pleasure to visit a bookstore with Bob, who would enthusiastically call attention to volumes which had sparked his interest. Recognized as one of the ablest preachers in the Virginia conference, Bob's sermons, the messages of a studious theologian, were always thoughtful.

Another asset which served as a great support in all his work was the love and companionship of an intelligent and charming wife, Joye. Through 42 years of marriage, there was joy and harmony in their relationship. Bob gave their four sons, Brantley, Bobby, Dana and Christopher, one of the most priceless gifts a father can provide his children, the assurance that he deeply loved their mother. Throughout each appointment there was happiness and stability which undergirded the splendid work and achievement of the Parkers. Those appointments began with the six-point Middle Bedford Circuit in the Lynchburg District in 1942. There followed the assignment at Sledd Memorial in Danville and the appointment to Duncan Memorial in Ashland, which included the chaplaincy of Randolph-Macon College. Through his vital ministry there, he influenced many students.

Another fine opportunity came to the Parkers when, during the pastorate at Westover Hills Church in Richmond, a beautiful church was constructed. Then followed the executive directorship of the Association of Educational Institutions in 1959, a position of administrative leadership for a great Virginia conference financial campaign which gave strength to Randolph-Macon Academy he was later to serve as president; to three colleges, Ferrum, Randolph-Macon and Randolph-Macon Woman's College; and birth to a fourth, Virginia Wesleyan College.

Upon his election to the presidency of Randolph-Macon Academy in 1965, Bob began his effective years in the educational ministry of the church. Few men have the opportunity, as Bob did, to serve the denomination as the chief executive officer of a secondary school, as well as a college. After four fruitful years in Front Royal, Bob was named president of Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music, one year following the unification of the Methodist and the Evangelical United Brethren churches. He was the ideal person to direct the institution at that time in its history, and for 13 years gave excellent leadership to the college and conservatory.

When he retired from Shenandoah in 1982, Bob served once again as executive director of the Association of Educational Institutions, a position he held until 1987. A final exciting assignment was given Bob and Joye when he was appointed minister of the English-Speaking United Methodist Church in Vienna, Austria. Death came too soon to this remarkable minister/educator on November 29,1987. An inspiring memorial service, conducted by the Rev. James H. Boice and the Rev. John B. Peters, was held December 2, 1987, appropriately in Westover Hills Church, filled with friends who came to pay their respect to this faithful and outstanding servant of the church.

-Lambuth M. Clarke



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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