This is an obituary I wrote for my friend Edwin Huntington Parker. He was known as Hunter to his friends. I originally submitted this article to the "Philadelphia Daily News". I was unhappy when the obituary ran in the paper with another writer's name on it and Hunter's name misspelled. The "Daily News" published a correction that said I provided the information. Unfortunately someone could interpret that I provided the misinformation. I am publishing the original obituary below.
Obituary for Edwin Huntington Parker
by Cei Bell
Edwin Huntington Parker, known to his many friends and associates as Hunter, told a magical story about how when he was about 13 his mother took him and ran away to Manhattan for a few days and they saw all the Broadway shows. In later years he would cheerfully be "Up at the crack of noon" to work on costumes for the theater. Parker passed away on February 9, 2014. He was 72 years old. The cause of death was metastatic lung cancer.
Mr. Parker was born in Providence, RI. He was the middle child of Margaret (Snedeker) Parker and Robert Morgan Parker, Sr. He is survived by his brother Robert M. Parker, Jr., sister-in-law Ann Parker, his sister Carol Helgerson, his brother-in-law Philip Helgerson, three nieces and two nephews.
Parker graduated from East Providence High School, E. Providence, RI in 1959. He attended Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts, Theater Division (1959-62) and the Meyer School of Fashion and Design in New York City. He was awarded membership in the Alpha Psi Omega National Honorary Dramatic Fraternity in September, 1960. Currently the name used is Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society.
He had a fascinating career as a costume designer. He was the assistant costume designer for the Loeb Drama Center at Harvard, Director of Wardrobe and Touring Wardrobe supervisor at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. At Alvin Ailey the worked with Judith Jamieson and toured with the company across the U.S., North Africa, the Soviet Union and Europe. Locally Hunter was Director of Wardrobe at the Pennsylvania Ballet. His company E. Huntington Parker Designs performed costume design and construction for local dance, opera, theater companies and Mummers groups including La Salle Music Theater, Philadelphia Civic Ballet, Astral, Inc., Ballet Kloss, Brandywine Ballet, Gloucester County Institute of Technology, Vineland Ballet, Peabody Opera Theater and Dance Del Bello. Hunter was a wardrobe stitcher at the Walnut Street Theater and the Prince Music Theater. Between costuming jobs he worked as a telemarketer at the Walnut Street Theater.
Sylvia Waters, archivist and former director of Ailey II for 38 years remembers Parker from the 1970 tour of North Africa, the Soviet Union and Europe. "When he came to work as wardrobe supervisor for Ailey I was with the company. It must have been the late spring of 1970. It might have been earlier…He was a certainly a very affable person, funny, had a great sense of humor. Very warm, hard worker. At that time the company was about 13 to 17 people. It was like a family. The crew was as much a part of the family as the dancers were."
Waters recalled how Parker had to handle local crews "different languages, different customs and he had to be in charge of that." In Morocco part of the cargo was lost "so they had to go out shopping for these yellow straw hats for Revelations, one of the ballets that is considered Mr. Ailey's master work. He had to put on flowers with hat pins. I can't remember what else was missing but he had to go out shopping for everything and we used those hats and other pieces for a long time after that." In the Soviet Union "There were throngs of people. during the performance and after the performance when you came out of the theater…We had to be escorted to the bus because so many people wanted autographs, wanted to shake your hand. It was immensely popular, very popular." After the Soviet Union the Ailey company spent two weeks in Paris and London. Then "Hunter and I both went back to Tunisia. We were visiting different friends."
Parker was well known and had many friends in the gay community. He was associated with gay male fraternal organizations of the 70s and 80s. According to longtime friend Robert Kahn, GLBT/AIDS activist and Supervisor in the City of Philadelphia Anti-Bias Agency, "Hunter was a fixture and raconteur at the Post [a now closed gay bar] he spoke to everyone had encyclopedic memory of their names and life histories. I met Hunter in the 1970s and he was one of the most honest, positive and generous people I have ever known. He was honest even when it was to his detriment. When Hunter's apartment was robbed his reaction was 'They probably needed it more than me."
Parker was also a gourmet cook. He was active in cooking classes at Jackson Place, the senior community where he resided the last several years. Mary Ellen Thomas the Sr. Housing Manager wrote to his sister, "He was the recording Secretary for the Resident's Association and worked tirelessly to encourage members to follow Robert's Rules of Order." Parker was the official proof reader of the monthly newsletter. "He really made an impact on everyone he met and was well-liked by all who knew him."
His burial will be at Swan Point Cemetery, Providence RI in early July.
Donations may be sent to either:
Presby's Inspired Life
2000 Joshua Road
Lafayette Hill, PA 19444
re: Jackson Place, 501 Jackson Str. Philadelphia, PA 19148
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre-
Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation
the Joan Weill Center for Dance
405 West 55th Street (at 9th Avenue)
New York, NY 10019
Call 212-405-9033 or email:
Edwin Huntington Parker (Hunter) with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in Morocco, 1970. Top row, third from right. Alvin Ailey, front row first on left. Sylvia Waters, second row, second from right in turban.