Monday, December 21, 2009

From Linda Bates Parker's Memorial

This past Saturday was the funeral for Linda Bates Parker at St. Joseph's Church in downtown Cincinnati. The visitation and service were, in many ways, a reflection of the global legacy of great work Ms. Bates Parker leaves behind. St. Joseph's was overflowing with family and friends and wishes and prayers were sent from people from all the world who weren't able to make the treck to town but wanted to convey the positive impact Ms. Bates Parker had on them.

Below is the family tribute about Linda Bates Parker from the program. I think it describes well much of the powerfully impactful life she led, so I've copied it verbatim.



A Family Tribute

Linda Bates Parker spent her life fighting against the odds and winning. By all predictions Linda was born to fail: One of two children born in the 40’s in the West End, father deceased, raised by a widowed mother. But the predictors of success forgot to tell Linda she was not supposed to succeed against the odds. For Linda truly succeeded on all accounts.

Linda was a daughter, sister, wife, career woman and friend. Linda fiercely loved her mother and brother and walked a special journey with each of them, doing all she could to make their lives comfortable. They now continue their walk together, her father Ernest Bates who died when Linda was 10, her mother Mary Arnold Bates having died on May 17, 2008 and her brother Ralph Bates who died on April 22nd, 2009. Linda never lost her love of the West End. Baptized at St. Joseph Church and educated in the Catholic school system, she continued to worship and support her church home. One of her greatest and most treasured awards came from St. Joseph Church who recognized her with the “Distinguished Service Award” in 2003. A bright and gifted student, Linda did not have the money for college. Through a full scholarship from the Charles Yeazer Foundation, Linda graduated from the University of Dayton. She took pride in receiving her scholarship and diligently worked to provide similar opportunities for young black women, especially those in the West End. A strong believer in “Pay it Forward,” she created the Linda Bates Parker Scholarship Fund at the University of Cincinnati.

Linda and Breland were married for 37 years. As a mother, she raised two creative children: her daughter Robbin and her son Brandon. She was a devoted and loving “grandmommy” to Taja, Isaiah and Anye Shabazz, encouraging Taja in her career endeavors, Isaiah in Taekwondo, Anye in dance, and each of them to excel in school. Linda made sure she provided whatever was necessary to ensure a level playing field for them. Linda did not join clubs or organizations; instead she created them, not just to have something to do, but because she saw a need or she saw a void that prevent her and others from succeeding. As a little girl in the West End, she created a club for her friends called the Polly Pigtails. As a young woman, she created JASCA, an organization whose purpose was to provide a social outlet for her and her female friends. On the University of Cincinnati campus, where Linda spent 39 years as an employee, she was instrumental in the creation of the Racial Awareness Pilot Project (RAPP), an organization designed to bring students of all races together. As Director of the Career Development Center, Linda created Advance, an organization whose purpose is to introduce and expose minority students to the world of business. Her work with college students included a span of more than 25 years as a writer for Black Collegiate magazine. When her son was in high school, she created the Summer Incentive Program (SIP) to encourage young black men to not only finish high school and go on to college, but to also see the special value they bring as black men.

Perhaps her greatest creation was Black Career Women, Inc. known as BCW. This organization, founded in 1977 continues to exist today. Thousands of women have been able to advance their careers because of workshops, career counseling and networking that resulted from being affiliated with BCW. An outgrowth of BCW was Execucircle, an international professional development organization for black men and women from across the United States. Linda saw a need for encouraging women of all races and ethnicities to come together and find common ground which resulted in a bi-annual conference entitled, “Can We Talk?™: Black Women, White Women and Women of Color.”

Linda was magnetic, once you met her you were instantly drawn to her. She made every contact, be it with a student, a colleague, or a casual acquaintance, one you didn’t forget. People she met called her Linda Bates Parker as if that was her first name. She truly walked “with Kings,” having had the privilege of knowing three Prime Ministers in two countries. She was comfortable in the board room and in the classroom. When her travels took her to foreign countries, she was comfortable with people whose languages she did not speak, because her big smile and her twinkling eyes let them know she was one with them and the universe.

Linda’s efforts to make the world a better place garnered her awards and recognitions. Her many awards included The Cincinnati Enquirer Woman of the Year award, the YWCA Women of Achievement award. She had many “firsts” – but took greatest pride in being the first black woman hired at Proctor & Gamble to do market research, she was hired at Shillito’s (a Federated department store) to train the first black women sales associates.

Linda Bates Parker, a woman for all seasons, who until her final hour worked to put others at ease and bring comfort to their lives.

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