PARKER, Howard (Howie)
May 25, 1926 - March 9, 2018
Howie Parker would never have described himself as a Renaissance man, but a Renaissance man our father undoubtedly was. Highly regarded in North Bay and Kirkland Lake, Ontario as a college and Junior Hockey coach, team manager and NHL scout. Howie was also a popular story-teller and musical entertainer who played to appreciative rooms in many a Northern Ontario town and in Windsor and St. Catharines.
Wherever Howie went, he made good, lifelong friends. He loved to brighten the lives of others. He was a great parent, role model, mentor, teacher and – his favourite role – entertainer.
Predeceased by his parents, Frank and Anne Parker, and by his brother Graham. Howie leaves his loving wife, Nancy, and his daughters; Kelley Anne Evans (Don), Sara Jane Parker and Colleen McGill (Cliff), along with nieces; Janice Parker and Tracey Ann Robinson. He also leaves grandchildren; Matthew Kelly Sandrin (Amber), Jacob Parker Sandrin and Gino Nicholas Sandrin, great-grandchildren; Carter, Anthony, Isabella and extended family members.
Howie was born in Sudbury and raised in Toronto and Timmins before settling in North Bay as a young adult. It was in the latter town that he contributed to building recreational sports and where he developed his considerable skills as a hockey player, referee and coach. These contributions were celebrated when he was inducted into the North Bay and OCAA Sports Hall of Fame. It was also in North Bay that he developed his reputation, socially, as a singer and guitar player, and where he began to assemble an impressive repertoire of songs that over the years grew to rival Frank Sinatra’s.
Howie credited his deep and everlasting love of music to the songs his mother sang to him from an early age. He always chose “anywhere there was music” for the outings they enjoyed together. The Boys’ Choir at St. Simon’s Anglican Church in Toronto was lucky to have him as a member.
Howie graduated with a B.A. from St. Jerome College in Kitchener. Thereafter, through the 1950s in North Bay, he experienced a miscellany of positions in various fields. His first permanent jobs were in sales, first with O’Keefe Brewery and next with London Life. Then, at the age of 37 and by now the father of three, he enrolled in Teachers College.
Howie’s teaching skills were developed, at first, in elementary school classrooms. The fact that he was also coaching the Junior-A North Bay Trappers at the time likely contributed to obtaining his next job as a teacher of English and builder of the hockey program at Northern College. In 1970, with Howie installed as the college’s first Athletic Director, his Northern Huskies won the OCAA provincial championship.
Howie loved to read and had a large book collection throughout his life, featuring both fiction and non-fiction. He was a movie lover, too, and was known to pull out an appropriate quote from The Wizard of Oz on occasion.
Life for our parents was very much an adventure. They both enjoyed socializing, which might partially explain why, in 1970, they bought the Princess Hotel in downtown Kirkland Lake, then a thriving mining town. “The Prin” had been shut down for 20 years, so it was under construction for their first year. An apartment for our family was established on the second floor. With two bars featuring live music, the hotel quickly became a popular hangout and the owners didn’t lose their shirts, but by 1975 operating a hotel had lost its charm, so Howie and Nancy sold “the Prin.”
While maintaining his academic career, Howie kicked off his semi-professional career as an entertainer with a gig at the Larder Lake Hotel. gigs in Kirkland Lake, North Bay, Windsor and St. Catharines followed over the years. As a youth, he performed in North Bay with the Legionnaires (Big Band), at the Top Hat, which later became Zorbas, Howie’s longest-standing venue many years later. He continued to develop leads for his music gigs into his 90s and did his final performances at the Royal Henley in St. Catharines just before Christmas 2017. Howie loved to perform and audiences loved him back.
Howie’s three daughters are grateful that they all could be with him at the time of his passing. We know we will continue to miss him, but we will take comfort in the recordings he made and our fond memories of his laughter, his stories and his deep love for each of us.
In keeping with Howard’s wishes cremation has taken place. Arrangements entrusted to Considerate Cremation & Burial Services, 52 Scott Street West, St. Catharines (between Ontario Street & South Service Road), 289-362-1144. Online condolences may be made at ccbscares.ca
“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” – The Wizard of Oz