Cover photo for William Henry Parker's Obituary
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1927 William 2023

William Henry Parker

July 8, 1927 — April 7, 2023

WILLIAM HENRY PARKER, died April 7, 2023.
Born Orange New Jersey to John J Parker and Ella A. Nafey, He was married to Edna Andrea Mulvihill September 1947 for 75 years.
He leaves two children David (Mary) of Round Hill, VA and Ellen (Harry) of Cape Ann, MA, as well as 6 grandchildren and one great-grandchild

Bill left high school October 1943 to enlist in the service but was refused as too young. After working in the local post office for nine months he was able to enlist at age 17 in August 1944. He attended basic training in Sampson NY, followed by advanced training in South Weymouth, MA. In August 1945 he was assigned to the staff of the Commander Mine Force in the Pacific theater. Charged with clearing the submerged and floating mines that had been laid in the harbors and rivers of China and Japan, he traveled with the Admiral's flag to Shanghai and was present during the initial contacts with the Japanese naval staff in September 1945 who helped identify the known locations of underwater mines. Bill's native intelligence, sense of duty and responsibility and organizational talent was recognized early. By 1953 he had risen to the rank of Chief Petty Officer when he was posted to the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego as an instructor in business English, typing, shorthand, payroll accounting and a Leadership program for new instructors.

From 1957 to 1959 he was stationed In Iwakuni, Japan as chief yeoman to the commander of Fleet Air Wing Six, in charge of administrative and personnel functions. He also continued his instructor duties by designing a program to teach the Gregg shorthand method to Japanese civilians who were being hired by the Navy to handle clerical responsibilities. During this period, he developed some of his closest friendships with the young officer staff that continue to the present day. With their encouragement and support, he was recommended to attend the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI. His first visit to Newport in 1959 was a life-changing event for him and his family and Newport became their adopted home.

As a staff officer he served aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Shangri-La, during its four-month cruise around Cape Horn as the ship moved from its San Diego home to Mayport, Florida. He also served aboard the USS Yosemite as Executive Officer from 1965-1967. In September 1967 he served a 12-month tour in Saigon as advisor to the Vietnamese Navy's Chief of Naval Personnel. That experience was highlighted by the February 1968 infiltration of Viet Cong into Saigon City beginning the spring "Tet" offensive during which Bill found himself shouldering a rifle in the officer's hotel as they came under fire. However, during most of the years from 1960-1971 when he retired from the Navy with rank of LCDR, he was assigned to the Naval Command Schools in Newport, serving as military supervisor to the civilian staff at the Officer Candidate School, the Naval War College and as assistant to the director of the Command Schools. Working at the Naval War College brought him back into the academic world and he enjoyed interacting with the civilian and military instructors and particularly enjoyed serving as advisor to the visiting foreign officers and their families.

Following his return from VietNam, he resumed his own education taking community college courses until 1971 when he was accepted to the University of Rhode Island's College of Business Administration. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration in 1975 and also completed his Master's in Business Administration a couple of years later. During this period he taught business education and computer coding classes at Middletown High School. He also coached the Middletown cross-country teams and was an assistant coach of the boy's track and field team while remaining active in the Middletown Athletic Boosters.

In 1978 he was recruited by a retired Navy nuclear engineer to develop the administrative and personnel management operations of a newly built nuclear power plant that had just been licensed and was ready to go online outside Harrisburg, PA. In October 1978, Bill and Edna left Middletown and moved to Hummelstown, PA where Bill became the Site Facilities Manager of Three Mile Island. On March 28, 1979, nuclear reactor #2 went into emergency shutdown to avoid catastrophic damage to the facility and the environment. Bill's job on that day and for many months after was to provide housing, food, transportation, communication and all necessary services to the hundreds of emergency personnel, government regulatory agency and investigative agency staff and media representatives who descended on the accident site. He was dubbed the "Mayor of Three Mile Island" and the go-to guy for all logistics and complaints, addressing the stresses of the growing Trailer City. As Three Mile Island's status became less acute and under greater external oversight, Bill's attention was re-focused on the general administration and contracting needs at the Oyster Creek reactor facility, then under construction near Toms River, New Jersey. After being promoted to general manager, in 1984 he and Edna returned to New Jersey where he oversaw many of GPU's (General Public Utilities) regional facility projects, including the construction and design of its new corporate headquarters in Parsippany. He retired in 1992.

Bill and Edna returned to Aquidneck Island to settle in Portsmouth overlooking the Sakonnet River. They renewed their association with the Naval War College and annually hosted visiting foreign officers from nations such as England, India, Israel, Italy, Latvia and Saudi Arabia. Bill rejoined the Newport Navy Choristers where he continued his lifelong love of singling. He and Edna were members of the Green Valley Golf Club and traveled to play different courses around the US and the British Isles. Additional travel to Europe with friends from Aquidneck Island and to visit friends made through Bill's work at the Naval War College kept Bill active and alert. Bill and Edna also spent time in Ireland researching their ancestors and identifying distant cousins with whom they enjoyed many years of shared memories. He remained an avid reader all his life, frequenting the Portsmouth Public Library.


Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, July 22, 2023 at 10:00am in St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 324 East Main Road, Portsmouth RI with interment to follow in the churchyard.

In lieu of flowers, suggested donations can be made in Bill's name to: Portsmouth Free Public Library, Middletown HS Athletic Boosters, or the The National World War II Museum in New Orleans LA
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Henry Parker, please visit our flower store.

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