She was with him when Dave, always a listmaker, checked off his last national park — 63 years after his first trip to the Tetons — with a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Traveling provided him a completely new world from the one in Detroit where he had grown up and the one in Washington where he would spend his career, first as a government official and later as president of the American Gas Association.
His love of travel was infectious, said his son, Kyle Parker, whose move to Alaska in 1989 was inspired by his travels with his father. The elder Parker visited all 50 states and more than 85 countries. He was known to friends as “Mr. National Parks,” and his license plate read “I-XPLOR.”
Parker, of McLean, died May 10 of covid-19 after contracting the coronavirus at an assisted-living facility. He was 80.
Growing up in Detroit, Parker worked as a paperboy in middle school, a drugstore clerk in high school and a mail carrier in college and graduate school. He met Carol on a blind date — they went to a toga party — when they were students at Wayne State University.
They to moved to D.C. together in 1967 as Parker took what was supposed to be a brief internship with Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.) on the Senate Energy Committee.
Carol, 79, remembered it as an exciting time filled with new experiences, including trying new restaurants each weekend. The six-month adventure turned into more than 50 years of working in the nation’s capital after Parker secured a full-time job.
At the Interior Department, he helped write legislation creating the Redwood and North Cascades national parks, and he promoted visits to the park system. He went on to work in the administrations of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, then served as deputy assistant secretary in the Commerce Department after Ford left office.
Parker epitomized “old school Washington, D.C.,” as a Republican who counted Democrats among his closest friends and sought the kinds of compromises that he worried in recent years were not being made, Kyle Parker said.
“He is from a different era,” his son said. “It was definitely sad for him to see how Washington has changed.”
Dave Parker led the American Gas Association from 1997 until 2010, shepherding its move from Arlington, Va., to Capitol Hill in 1999, which helped raise its profile. Since his death, association staffers have praised Parker as a leader who always recognized and promoted talent.
Before joining the association, Parker was president of the Aluminum Association and an executive at the Edison Electric Institute.
In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by a daughter and two grandchildren.