Gary Rao Parker


Gary passed away Saturday, March 11, at The Ridge Care Center in Salt Lake City, after a nine-year struggle with Alzheimer’s dementia.

Gary was born in Logan, Utah, the oldest of four children, to Rao Keith Parker and Lola Irene Majia Parker. He was raised in Ogden, Utah.

After graduating from Ben Lomand High School in 1965, Gary worked for a year as a meat cutter in a grocery store, where he learned skills that served him well in processing numerous antelope, deer and elk that he harvested during many hunting seasons throughout his life.

Gary served an LDS mission in Germany. He enjoyed learning the language, talking to the people and, much to his dismay, had to eat onions on occasion to avoid giving offense. In later years, Gary commented that missions are more for the missionary, to solidify their faith, than about gaining many converts.

Upon his return to Utah, Gary had no desire to continue meat cutting and enrolled in Weber State College, where he pledged the Excelsior fraternity. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and went on to earn a Master of Social Work in 1974 at the University of Utah.

Gary was excited to accept a social work position at the Wyoming State Hospital because Wyoming had so many opportunities for fishing and hunting. While there, he met a student nurse, Jolene Tyrrell, and they were married a year later in 1975. Three children, Heidi, Cody and Daniel soon followed.

Gary chose to be a strong voice for those who struggle with mental illness and were not heard. Within a few years, Gary was promoted to director of social work at WSH. In that position, he hired and trained many social workers to support those with mental illness. He became an associate professor of social work with the University of Utah and, in the 1990s, with the University of Wyoming.

He supervised numerous graduate level social workers in their practicum experience. He became knowledgeable about healthcare facility requirements and served as a surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

In his free time, Gary was an avid outdoorsman. He spent as much time as possible on riverbanks and reservoirs with his fishing pole to catch trout or his favorite fish, walleye. Gary trapped muskrats, beavers and was especially proud when he could lure fox into his traps.

Several local ranchers appreciated that he kept their irrigation ditches clear.

He was very proud of his three children and rejoiced in his four grandchildren. The family had many adventures in the outdoors.

Gary was preceded in death by his parents, Rao and Lola Parker; and by his stepmother, Edna Parker.

He is survived by his wife, Jolene; children, Heidi Carter, Cody Parker and Dan (Maija)Parker; grandchildren, Elaine and Benjamin Carter and Max and Alex Parker; brothers, Craig (Judy) Parker and Todd (Debbie) Parker; and sister, Wendy (Craig) Hall.

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