Longtime Juneau mayor bids farewell

Parker involved in fireworks, sanitation and the salmon derby

Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2001

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Larry Parker was involved in a lot of fireworks during his 55 years in Juneau. Some were for celebrations. Some were political.

Parker, a former mayor and Fourth of July pyrotechnics chief, and his wife Kay plan to leave Juneau soon. A farewell party is planned for 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the downtown fire hall. Hot dogs and soda will be provided and well-wishers are asked to bring a dish to share.

The Parkers made Juneau their home in 1946 following Larry's service during World War II. If something happened in the community from the time of their arrival through the mid-1970s, Larry Parker likely had a hand in it, friends said.

"He's definitely a pillar of this community," said Ron Flint of Nugget Alaskan Outfitter. "He's a mountain of a man."

Parker jumped into the Fourth of July fireworks act in 1947.

"You haven't seen fireworks 'til you've seen fireworks in Juneau," Parker said in a 1998 interview. "Here's the hand that lights them. It was just another blasted thing I did."

Parker, now 82, was also the man who put the "golden" into the Golden North Salmon Derby. He helped create the event's name with commercial artist Jack Glover. He remained a friend of the derby and for many years set off the "bomb" that signaled the fishing contest's end.

Parker worked for territorial health department, traveling Alaska, advocating and educating for sanitary water supplies. He also helped start and develop several statewide organizations and programs, including the reactivation of Alaska's National Guard. Parker retired from the Guard in 1967 as a full colonel.

Shortly after Alaska became a state in 1959, Parker was elected Juneau's mayor, serving until 1967. During this era, Juneau was attempting to establish itself as the state capital, and others were trying to move the capital site. At the same time, efforts were being made to incorporate the city into a borough, which led to political fireworks.

"No one knew what a borough was," Parker said.

After he left the mayor's seat, Parker remained active in politics and development issues. One issue was construction of Egan Drive in the 1970s.

"We were going through the dearly loved tidelands, but I knew we were going to have to take some place to build it," he said. "I just tried to keep a positive attitude about it."

Parker also worked to gain public and government support for construction of Harris Harbor, the Snettisham hydropower project, and an airport runway fit for the jet age.

He said he's proud of the people who pitched in to make Juneau what it is today.

"They came from every darn place you could mention, and they put the best they had into building this city," he said. "I just kept the focus on what we wanted to do in the long run and tried to keep people headed in one direction."

The Parkers will move to a retirement home in Seattle on March 22.

"We"ll miss everybody here," Kay Parker said. "Believe me."

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