Mitchell Dan Parker was born October 21, 1932, to Ernest Parker and Lee Ella Mitchell in Keota, Oklahoma. He died on January 14, 2024, at the age of 91 in Syracuse, Kansas.
Mitch (who was known to his family as “Mick”) spent most of his childhood in Eastern Oklahoma living in various towns helping his parents with their grocery store business and was especially well liked by the older customers to whom he often made home deliveries and with whom he always took time to visit. He was also admired by his younger sister and brother who remember him fondly for always going out of his way to fix their bikes, go to their games, and look out for them. Mitch discovered a love for sports at a young age and played high school football, basketball and baseball. He had many stories about his playing days in Bokoshe, Oklahoma where he graduated in 1950. Following high school, he attended Connors Junior College, where he played baseball, and graduated from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in science in 1954.
After college, Mitch began his teaching and coaching career. Early on he taught and coached basketball in Tamaha, OK, and Geuda Springs, Potwin, and Whitewater, KS. Finally, in 1963 he landed a job in the Valley Center, KS, school district where he met his wife, a fellow teacher at Park School. Mitch and Alta married on August 3, 1965, in Newkirk, Oklahoma, and had two children, Kristy and Russell. Mitch spent countless hours with his children, teaching them to read, coaching them in sports, and instilling in them a love for learning and all things related to sports. Mitch loved to tell stories about the athletic greatness of Bill Russell, Oklahoma Sooner Tommy McDonald, Mickey Mantle, Dizzy Dean and so many more. He loved attending the Kansas State High School track meet and was fond of telling stories about Jim Ryun, John Riggins, and Nolan Cromwell, all of whom he saw perform there. His daughter was always impressed by his love of girls’ sports and his disbelief that there was no girls’ basketball in the schools when he first moved to Kansas.
Mitch and Alta were married for 58 years, residing most of that time in Valley Center. They combined to teach over 60 years in the Valley Center schools. Mr. Parker was well known for his self-made English notebook curriculum. Many of his students report that they saved their notebooks and remember all the “helping verbs” to this day. He was also known for his dedication to helping every student do their best, whether it was in the classroom or in a sports venue. He had a particular love for teaching younger kids to play basketball and was proud of coaching Russell and his team to a championship in the Sixth Grade Tournament at Halstead. Mitch retired in 1993 and the Parkers would eventually move to Wichita. Due to declining health, Mitch and Alta relocated to Syracuse, KS, in 2021, to be closer to their son.
Mitch is survived by his wife, Alta of Syracuse, KS; daughter, Kristy Parker (Rich Montague) of Fairfax Station, VA; son, Russell Parker (Heather) of Holly, CO; grandchildren, Caden Parker (Maisy), Brigden Parker, Matthew Montague, Andy Montague, and Rob Montague. He is also survived by his sister, Ernestine Shurley (Dub) of Anthony, KS and his brother, Jack Parker (Sharon) of Ardmore, OK.
At this time no service is planned, however later this year the family will conduct a memorial service with details forthcoming.