When Hugo Parkman was called to service, he answered.
The country was in the midst of World War II when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. And years later, when he was called to serve as a missionary overseas, he went. Those two experiences gave Parkman his life’s greatest memories.
William Hugo Parkman of Palmetto died Nov. 20 at home from natural causes. He was 92. A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, at Palmetto Baptist Church. Parrott Funeral Home in Fairburn is in charge of arrangements.
Born on Dec. 11, 1919 in Langdale, Ala., Hugo Parkman entered the Navy after graduating from Auburn University. He was a communications officer aboard the USS Finback in World War II when his crew rescued an American fighter pilot whose plane had been shot down over the Pacific. That Navy pilot, George H.W. Bush, would later become the 41st President of the United States and Parkman’s friend.
The men shared a bunk for 30 days before Bush departed from the USS Finback, and it would be 45 years before they met again.
Hugo Parkman married Doris McKoy and in 1957 the couple moved their family to Manila, Philippines, where they served as missionaries for more than 27 years. According to their daughter, Leslie Roe of Herndon, Va., one of their greatest experiences during their missionary work was their involvement in a ministry at Luzon Baptist Camp in Bataan dedicated to helping children born with cleft palates. “That was one of the things they did in their later years together that gave them great satisfaction,” she said. “They did everything together. Momma was always at daddy’s side.”
In 1989, Parkman was invited to attend the presidential inauguration of George H.W. Bush. “He and the other crew members who served on the USS Finback had a viewing stand,” said his son, Henry Parkman of Decatur. In a 1991 profile in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hugo Parkman recalled the gratitude Bush expressed to the men who saved his life: “He told us then, ‘There’s not a day passes that I don’t think about you all because you saved my life.’ He doesn’t forget a thing.” After rekindling their friendship, his son said that he and the former president remained in touch over the years.
His son and daughter said their father will be most remembered for living a life that served as a good example for others. “The most important thing about daddy was his faith in God. His life was about service and sacrifice for other people,” said his daughter. “He opened my eyes to the sites of the world,” his son said, recalling the different places they traveled during his childhood.
Additional survivors include his wife, Doris McKoy Parkman; son, Dan Parkman of Leawood, Kan.; daughters, Susan Shillito of St. Louis, Mo.; Laura Pfister of Suwanee and Olivia Fordham of Snellville; 15 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
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