Gentle Forest Parker, III
Gentle Forest “Sonny” “Preacher” Parker, III, was free to fly on Christmas Day, December 25, 2014. He passed away at William S. Middleton Veteran’s Hospital in Madison with his fiancé comforting him. He was born July 1, 1947 in Selma, Alabama to the late Gentle Forest and Mary (Phillips) Parker II. He attended school in Alabama, but never graduated. He passed the college entrance exam to enter college where he received an Associate Degree in Behavioral Science.
Sonny was active in the Civil Rights Movement, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He joined the U.S. Army on June 29, 1969 and proudly served as an SPC Army Ranger of the 101st Airborne Division, serving in Vietnam and Africa. He received many medals, including the Bronze Star.
Being fit was very important to Sonny. He called himself a gym rat and worked as a trainer at several health clubs. He was a body builder and was Mr. Madison in the 70’s. He held many jobs in his lifetime, working two or three at a time, including Scout Master for Blue Mounds, parole officer, security guard and psych attendant. The job he enjoyed most was working with young men, although, he was also part of two special girls’ lives, raising them for five years; Brionna Pledgure and Jaidah Whitely, who called him “Pops”. He created his own group home, working with Dane County and the Madison Schools. He also created the ABC Basketball Team and was their Coach Parker. He believed that “you could be whatever you want to be.”
Sonny endured many struggles after leaving the service. Through his journaling he voiced that PTSD virtually isolated him. This illness made it difficult to maintain relationships and jobs. He dealt with night terrors, depression and anxiety. With the help and guidance of his group therapy in Ohio with Jimmy and friends, he was able to rise above his demons and find peace.
Sonny is survived by his fiancé, Cheryll Holley and her daughters, Amy (Larry) Franklin and their daughter, Mya Franklin and Tina (J.Davis) Jeremiason and her daughter Teeanna Brisco. He is further survived by Earnestine Parker, and their children, Tanisha Ferran, Juanita Parker, Angie Phillips and Ebon Parker; eight grandchildren; one great-grandchild; a sister, Irelene Parker; a brother, Ernest Parker; and nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers; and his father-in-law.
A special thank you goes to the VA Hospital Surgical ICU, third floor, and VA Hospital Hospice. You all are such special angels yourselves. XOXOXO.
My Angel, my rose man…We were so blessed to have each other for five years and five months. You are such an amazing man. You made me smile every day. Remember: “Love You” “Together Forever” “See Ya”.
A Memorial Service will be at 12 noon on Saturday, January 3 at RYAN FUNERAL HOME, VERONA CHAPEL, 220 Enterprise Drive with Reverend Kurt Billings and Reverend William Badger officiating. Visitation will be on Saturday at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until the time of service. Luncheon at St. James Lutheran Church in Verona will follow the funeral home service. Interment will take place in the summer at Verona Cemetery.
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