Johnny Ray Parker was born on March 14, 1960, in Decatur, AL, and passed away Tuesday, September 24th, in Newbern, Alabama, with his dog Boo Boo by his side and doing what he loved: working with his hands.
Johnny found his home in Hale County, Alabama, more than 20 years ago. In July 2001, he started working for Auburn University Rural Studio as a construction supervisor, and in that time worked with hundreds of undergraduate architecture students. He taught them the basics for survival: how to weld, install plumbing and electrical, drive a truck with a loaded trailer, change a tire, build a jig, drive the Bobcat, or fix a leaky roof. But, more importantly, he empowered young students to work hard, solve problems, and tackle anything they faced with courage.
Johnny was unwaveringly authentic. He was the best problem solver—a real-life MacGyver who could literally fix anything. He was also a very private person, ever the observer, and had an incredible intuition about anything or anyone he faced. Johnny was a fiercely loyal animal lover who would always show up with a new friend: baby pig, sheep, snake, bat, bird, frog, raccoon, kitten, or puppy. He also loved cows, both to raise and to eat. He enjoyed working with his hands, building things for his friends, and working with his friends. He was especially known for his hand-crafted cedar chests and jewelry boxes. He always loved a good visit, even if he only said one word. He was full of surprises and could be easily bribed with homemade baked goods. He quietly took care of others, without ever asking for anything in return.
Johnny enjoyed traveling, especially if he could bring his dog. He was often spotted driving around with one of his best buddies, Dufus or BooBoo, by his side. He was well-known for his pranks and loved a good joke. You knew to turn around and walk the other way when you saw him coming with a big smile and a cattle prod.
Whether you met him for five minutes or knew him for 20 years, everyone who met him has a “Johnny story”—the kind of story that stays with you forever, the kind of story that shifted something inside you. Many would say that he left a far bigger impression on them than they did on him. He was a truly remarkable person and he will be sincerely missed.
Johnny is survived by two sisters, Barbara McKellar and Donna Hill of Decatur, Alabama. He was preceded in death by his parents, Tom and Lorene Parker; his sister, Shelia Parker; and his brother Danny Ray Parker.
His funeral visitation will be on Saturday, October 5, 2019, at 12 p.m. at Roselawn Funeral Home in Decatur, AL, with service to follow at 2 p.m.
Rev. Elizabeth Hinton, a native of Newbern who has known Johnny most of her life, will officiate the service.
Auburn University Rural Studio is planning a public memorial, which is set for Saturday, December 7, 2019.