Rex Leon Parker was born in Fairview, West Virginia, on October 4, 1924 and died on May 3, 1996 in Valrico, Florida. He was the son of Clifford Charley Parker and Hazel M. Whitehill Parker, and the oldest of his five siblings Leonard, Clifford, Jack, Phyllis, and Richard.1 Rex Parker served in the United States Army during World War II from July 7, 1944 to July 2, 1946.2
Rex spent the early years of his life growing up poor in small, rural towns in the mountainous regions of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Rex Parker’s father, Clifford, had only been educated to the elementary level and seemed to struggle in finding high-paying wages.3 In 1930, the Parker family resided in a small district of Monongalia County, West Virginia, that was populated by only about 430 other families.4 Here, Clifford Parker worked as a tool dresser in an oil field, while the rest of the family remained home in a room that they rented for $6 per month.5
Between the years 1931 and 1936, the Parker family moved to the small town of Tioga, Pennsylvania, which held a population of less than 200 families.6 Perhaps the births of Rex’s youngest brother and sister, Richard and Phyllis, during this time prompted the family to move. Though the family still did not own a house, Rex’s father found a steady salary as an engineer for a gas company in Tioga, based on the information found in the 1940 Census seen here.7 By age eighteen, Rex Parker had dropped out of high school after his first year and began work with the Ingersoll-Rand Company. Presumably, this is the same company that his father reported to be working for in 1940.8
Though he spent the majority of his childhood living in small, isolated towns, Rex Parker spent the early years of adulthood watching as the world was drawn into another World War. At age nineteen, Parker enlisted in the Army on July 7, 1944 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.9 He was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for training from July until December, 1944.10 Though not known for certain, it is possible that Rex Parker was assigned to one of the many units housed in Fort Bragg at the time. By the time he arrived to Fort Bragg, the base was home to the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and the training station for the 9th Infantry, 100th Infantry, and 2nd Armored Divisions.11
On December 10, 1944, Rex Parker deployed overseas, arriving to Europe just as the Battle of the Bulge began.12 It is possible that Rex Parker participated in the defense against the last German offensive, which resulted in over 100,000 U.S. casualties.13 Parker remained overseas until August 3, 1945, when he returned to the United States to complete his enlistment. On July 2, 1946, he was honorably discharged from the Army.
Before being discharged from the Army, Rex Parker returned to Tioga, Pennsylvania, and married Phyllis Adriance on February 6, 1946.14 On May 20, 1948, Mr. and Mrs. Parker gave birth to a daughter, Pamela Susan Parker.15 The family remained living in the Tioga area until at least the 1950s. Though there is no information regarding what career Rex Parker followed, it is evident that he enjoyed deer hunting. In December, 1948, Parker was listed as Tioga’s second most successful deer hunter.16 In May 1949, the Parker family moved out of their apartment to the home of Phyllis’ parents, who also lived in Tioga.17 It is uncertain how long the Parker family remained there, but in January 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Parker purchased a plot of land in Lawrence, Pennsylvania.18
At some point in the 1950s, Rex and Phyllis Parker gave birth to another daughter, Candace Ann. It is unknown whether or not the family had already moved to Florida before Candace’s birth. However, in 1975 Candace Ann was married in Lakeland, Florida; therefore it is presumed that the Parker family had resided in Florida by the 1970s.19
Rex Leon Parker died on May 3, 1996 in Valrico, Florida. He is memorialized at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.20 A year later, on August 15, 1997, his oldest daughter, Pamela Susan Churchill, died in Gwinnett, Georgia.21 Rex’s spouse, Phyllis, lived to the age of eighty-six and died on April 7, 2013, in Lakeland, Florida.22 At the time of her death, the Parkers had four grandsons and five great-grandchildren. It was a long road from West Virginia to Pennsylvania and then to Europe and home—a common journey for Florida’s Greatest Generation.23
9 “United States World War II Army Enlistment Records,” database, Familysearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ : accessed April 11, 2017), entry for Rex L. Parker.
11 U.S. Army. Fort Bragg History. (n.p., n.d.). Web. https://www.bragg.army.mil/index.php/about/fort-bragg-history : accessed July 2, 2017).
13 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum. The 82nd Airborne Division History. Web. Accessed April 14, 2017.https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/NGLMap?ID=5896437
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