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Parker and Mario

Parker grew up in Philadelphia. One of his earliest memories is of the summer gatherings his grandfather would host at his beach house for his large extended family. “On Sundays, all of the uncles would make ice cream,” Parker recalls. “They’d use whatever was in season — strawberries in June, peaches in August. It tasted so fresh and simple, unlike anything you can find now.”

Life’s Work

When Parker finished high school, he enlisted in the Navy. He served as a radio operator during World War II. When the war ended, he enrolled as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, where he discovered his passion for theater.

“In college, I made sets, acted, wrote plays, directed, ushered,” Parker says. “I did anything I could to be close to the theater. I was hooked.” He was the first graduate of Wesleyan to receive his bachelor’s degree in theater. In recognition of this and his other achievements, Wesleyan awarded Parker the Distinguished Alumni Award and created a theater scholarship in his honor.

He continued his education at Fordham University, where he received his master’s in fine arts. He then moved to Manhattan to try to make it as an actor. “I went to a lot of auditions, and I was cast in a few roles,” Parker recalls. “But to make ends meet, I needed a day job.” He found a job working as a switchboard operator for a theater agency. “It was like being a radio operator in the Navy, only I was working with all women and there was a lot more pressure.”