Former coach remembered

Published 8:46 am Friday, May 8, 2009

COURTLAND—According to a former student, fellow coach and co-worker, Gail Parker was someone who cared about you, whether he knew you for 37 years or four months.

Parker, a former Franklin High School head football coach and an assistant coach of the 1970 Marshall University football team that perished in a plane crash, died Saturday at Southampton Memorial Hospital. He was 66.

Jim Jervey, a co-worker who played under Jervey at FHS and later coached with him at the same school, talked about Parker’s life after Wednesday’s funeral service. Jervey, who worked with Parker at Farm Bureau Insurance in Courtland for the last 15 years, said Parker made everyone around him a better person.

“He was a special, special person. I knew where he was in his life and with his family, and he just had everything in order,” Jervey said.

“He tried to do his best to make sure you had everything in order. We are all better off for having had him as part of our lives, and we will continue to be better off.”

Parker came to FHS in 1971 as a guidance counselor and football coach. he coached Jervey from 1972 up to his last season in 1975. Parker went on to coach at his alma mater, Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, and then began working at Farm Bureau in 1976. He continued to coach on a volunteer basis at Southampton Academy, Franklin, Lakeland High School, Manchester High School, Chowan University and Deep Creek High School.

Dale Marks, athletic director at Southampton Academy, was head football coach at the school in 1980 and coached with Parker at the time.

“We had immediate success,” Marks said. “We won the conference championship. There’s no way that would have happened if he had not been on the staff.

“I just can’t say enough about not only his football knowledge, but his overall knowledge of handling of kids and handling of situations. He always related well with the kids and was a great motivator. The area has lost a good man. He was a very positive influence on anyone he came in contact with.”

Jervey said, “Coaching has been in his blood. Other than his family and Jesus Christ, he loved football,” Jervey said. “He’s coached with a lot of different people. He volunteered at Deep Creek High School and they had their team at the funeral. That kind of shows you what he meant to people.”

Jervey said Parker, who competed in 49 triathlons, always asked people if they were taking care of themselves. Jervey said Parker also had a knack for making people believe in themselves.

“He had a way that he always made you think that you were better than you really were. Whether he was coaching or working, he helped you believe in yourself,” Jervey said. “He always wanted to make sure you were doing the right things with your family and spiritually, and taking care of yourself.”

Although Parker will be missed and died at a relatively young age, Jervey said he has peace of mind knowing that his friend was somebody who cared about people.

“Sometimes when you know somebody who has been so special to you, it makes it easier when you are at peace with what he preached.”