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Tulsa mourns beloved WWII veteran Bill Parker

Bill Parker
Posted at 11:37 AM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-16 12:59:21-04

TULSA, Okla. — Bill Parker, a 98-year-old World War II veteran from Tulsa, passed away on Sept. 11, 2023.

Parker, while small in stature, had a larger-than-life impact on those who knew him.

Known in the military as Tech Sergeant William Norman Parker, he was one of the first to land on Omaha Beach for the D-Day invasion. Parker was the last man living from the first wave of soldiers on Omaha Beach.
2 News had the opportunity to talk to Parker about that experience.

Parker earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star during his service. He was also a proud Choctaw warrior.

Tech Sergeant Bill Parker almost became a world-champion bull rider. Instead, he was called to fight, ruining his chances.

"I've been asked a number of times, well, were you scared? No, I wasn't scared. Maybe I didn't have sense enough to be. But I think it's because we didn't have time to be," Parker said.

2 News went to one of Parker's favorite places in his later years - the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. It's where Executive Director and friend Tonya Blansett says he'd ride in historic warbirds and interact with the kids.

"He would take time and talk to the kids and just let them ask questions and show interest in them," she said.

Parker loved to ride the war birds when they came to the museum. The World War II B-24 replica staff have at the museum is an excellent example of one he would ride. Blansett says the planes would remind him of his brother.

"I think it connected him to one of his brothers who was a gunner on the aircraft in WWII," Blansett said. "He was in infantry, so he never flew an aircraft during his military service."

Ashely James was Parker's caregiver and spent the last month with him. Nervous at first knowing his past, James says she was the lucky one who got to hear his stories every day - especially during physical therapy.

"We would do leg lifts or something, and he 'd say "one for the cow that jumped over the moon." Or he would tell the story about the lady in the shoe, with all the kids in the shoe. I've never heard it, and I still couldn't tell you what it is," Jones said with a laugh.

Whether it be interacting with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower over boots, claiming to his fellow troops he shot Hitler, or talking to children at the museum, Parker will go down in history as the consummate cowboy – and a heroic patriot.

He's remembered by friends and family as a cowboy and a true hero.
A service is planned for Parker's friends and family on Monday, Sept. 18, at 11 a.m. at the Skiatook Church of Christ, and is the service is open to the public.

Others looking to memorialize Parker can sent donations to The Coffee Bunker at 6365 E. 41st St. Donations can also be made online here.

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