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Habitat News

Senior Crew Spotlight | Jim Parker

Tell us a little about your background (where you grew up, your family, your career, etc.)

I was born in Neenah, WI a very long time ago, and consider myself a third-generation papermaker with Kimberly-Clark. My dad worked his entire career in printing paper operations. His father was the Superintendent at the Neenah Paper Co., owned by K.C. KC hired my dad in 1930, transferred him to Niagara Falls, NY in 1938, back to Appleton in 1943, and to Niagara, WI in 1951 where I graduated from HS in 1954-one of a rousing graduating class of 30.
I followed both my parents to Lawrence College, graduating in 1957. Proceeded from there to the Institute of Paper Chemistry, then affiliated with Lawrence, for grad school in paper science and engineering, finishing in 1962 with MS & PhD degrees. Started with KC at the Memphis, TN, tissue mill as a process engineer. In 1964 was transferred to the KC Newsprint mill in Alabama, again as a process engineer. Worked in both the paper mill and an experimental pulping operation run by Neenah R&D. The latter position precipitated my transfer to Neenah R&D in 1966 where I stayed until retiring in 1996. Served as a project and department manager in four different product/process development areas. It was during a major machine development program in the 1970s that I had the pleasure of meeting and working with fellow Sr. Crew member, Paul Rieden.

I met my lovely wife, Sue, at Lawrence. We were married in 1958. Son Jeff was born while we were at the Institute and daughter Deb was born in Memphis. Both kids live in the Twin Cities-Deb works with the USDA Rural Development program. Jeff recently retired after 20 years in financial investments and 10 years teaching HS math. I am the proud grandfather of four perfect grandchildren, now ages 21 to 26. Sadly, I lost Sue in 1993 after a long and difficult illness.

What made you decide to volunteer with Habitat?

Jim Parker with group of girls from Slidell 2007

Before retiring, I knew I had to have something to keep me occupied, both physically and mentally, besides fishing, golf, and woodworking. I knew of several people, including my father-in-law, who had retired having no idea what they were going to do, and basically sat down and died. I had no intention of doing that.

Before I retired, I had volunteered once with Habitat as a member of a crew from the Appleton UCC church at one of the earliest Habitat homes. The good news is that I had lot of fun and met some really neat people; the bad news was that I was assigned to nail siding, and could hardly raise my arm at the end of the day. That probably precipitated my now well-known aversion to Habitat siding days.

Shortly after that I was approached by a board member to help draft a position description for a new Executive Director (John’s predecessor). I did that, which then led to an invitation to join the board and eventually to retirement and regular worksite volunteering. As Jodi unfortunately announced at the COP on March 14, I later became infamous for suggesting we not immediately hire John W. (after his predecessor unfortunately passed away) but search more broadly before making a decision. Fortunately, I was outvoted.

When not volunteering with Habitat, what do you do?

Shortly before I retired I became a Big with Big Brother and Big sisters. “Little” Jeremy and I were paired for about five years before he and family left town when he was 13. Great fun. Also had the pleasure of working on the BBBS board for eight years, and was active in fund raising and in Bowl for Kids Sake.
I am probably best known these days for my deep love of woodturning-bowls, platters, pens, etc., with particular love of cherry wood and cherry burls. Am a member of the large local NEW Woodturners club and the Unbalanced Six Woodturners. I am delighted that I have recently managed to attract Sr. Crew members MaryJo and Keith Glass and Mark and Kathy Steine into the woodturning arts. I hope they get have as much pleasure from it as I have.
Obviously, I try to visit kids and grandkids as often as possible. Particularly love visits to my son’s beautiful lake home in northern Minnesota with the inevitable frustration of failing to catch trophy walleye and muskies.

What do you most enjoy about Habitat?

Obviously, meeting and getting to know the wonderful staff and other members of the great Senior Crew. But I take particular pleasure in having helped to recruit many of the early members 15-16 years ago. I love working on most aspects of new home construction, and very much enjoy helping with training and with the construction manual. I am very proud of having helped to grow the affiliate over the past 20 years.

What is something about you that might be a surprise to those with whom you volunteer?

Two items that may surprise my fellow Sr. Crewers: I am proud that I, along with three classmates, including the superintendent’s son, were suspended from high school for three days for presenting a “lewd” pep rally prior to a big basketball game. Would probably be considered cute today in grade school, but scandalous in little ol’ Niagara in 1953. My mother was shocked but my father said, “If that’s the worst thing he does, he’ll turn out all right.” My mother glared at him!

Of possibly higher import, I have an inside-page headline from the Post Crescent in 1969 entitled “Parker Steals the Show” for my performance in Attic Theater’s production of the play “Years Ago.” I played a cantankerous retired sea captain, forced to address the frightening new technology represented by the party-line, hand-crank telephone. (Clearly required strong acting skills considering my usually quiet voice and demeanor.) The really fun part is that my co-star in the play was Margaret Heyn, mother of Sr. Crew buddy, Dave Heyn. Margaret was the real star of the show.

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