Bill Parker 1954 - 2016
He was proud to be a Montanan, loved the Yellowstone River, downtown Billings and everything cowboy.
Parker, 62, died Thursday, June 23, 2016, at his home on Blue Creek Road of pancreatic cancer. Born to Dick and Millie Parker on May 19, 1954, Bill loved the western way of life even as a baby and boy growing up. In his baby book, his mother wrote “He was a little cowboy from the start, and especially liked pictures of Casey Tibbs and Deb Copenhaver, in the Western Horseman.” As a child he enjoyed spending time at Snook Art Gallery in downtown Billings and marveled at the Will James prints and books.
He graduated from Billings Senior High School in 1972 and attended Eastern Montana College and Dawson Community College in Glendive competing on the rodeo team and winning a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association National Championship in the team roping with partner Phil Luman.
In his first year in the PRCA, Parker earned the Rookie of the Year honors in the team roping and also qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo, partnering with David Motes. In 1982, he returned in the team roping with heeler Brad Smith. In 1980, he qualified for the NFR in the calf roping. To this day, Parker is the only Montanan ever to qualify in the tie down roping. He was the International Professional Rodeo Association Team Roping World Champion in 1976 and that buckle he won was his lifetime favorite.
Bill’s achievements include year-end championships in the Northern Rodeo Association team roping, calf roping and all-around. An accomplished cutting horse rider as well, Bill won many regional championships in addition to top 15 National Cutting Horse Association rankings.
Bill loved kids of all ages and many will tell you today how he mentored, coached and encouraged them to achieve their goals. On May 5, 1989, Parker married Jann Marie Johnson and together they built a life around horses. They were licensed and bonded horse dealers and managed their first horse sale at the College National Finals Rodeo in Bozeman in the early ‘90s. Bill became an expert in horse pedigrees and commentary and was a sought-after authority at sales from Montana to Texas. He had long-time relationships with Havard Sale Management in Lufkin, Texas, as well as sales produced by long-time friend and business partner, Bill Richardson of Whitesboro, Texas.
In 1998, the Parkers’ assumed management of Billings Livestock Commission Company horse sales with then owner Jack McGuinness, “This is what I always wanted to do,” Bill said. “And I can see where I grew up from here. I am a lucky guy.”
In 2003, Pat Goggins purchased the facility and assumed the relationship and with this partnership the horse sale continued to build and grow into where it is today—the largest monthly horse sale in the United States.
Bill Parker liked competition and gambling—be it trading horses, playing poker or rodeoing. He got good at all of them and he thrived on the competition. He was well known in card rooms and over the years ran card games in several Billings establishments. Bill got up everyday happy and excited about what that day held for him. “We’re lucky people,” he said often. In the end, after he was diagnosed, Bill didn’t complain. He recognized how great his life was. “I get to live in the prettiest state, in the best country in the world, and wake up everyday and rope, ride or manage a horse sale.” Bill was baptized in Red Lodge at the Methodist church and in recent years was a member and attended Huntley United Methodist Church.
He is survived by his wife; his parents; brother Doyle (Michelle) of Bridger; nieces and nephews, Delon, Elizabeth “Elle,” Trevor and Bo Parker; mother-in-law Anna Marie Johnson of Fargo, N.D.; brother and sister-in-law Russ and Lori Johnson of Nampa, Idaho; nieces Marah and Ciera, and many aunts, uncles and cousins. He was preceded in death by his father-in-law, Dexter Johnson. He is also survived by close friends, many of who prayed with him in his final days on earth.