Warroad Warden Pilot Is Posthumous Hall of Famer
June 3, 2023
by Jeff Olsen
The late John Parker, a renowned flying DNR game warden who was first stationed in Warroad approximately 75 years ago, was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame on April 1, 2023, at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.
John Parker was a native of Claremont, Minnesota.
His son, Jeff, served as the presenter for his late father, who served in the Army Air Force and flew P-47 Thunderbolts.
"It was the biggest single engine fighter. He served in Italy and flew 61 missions," Jeff said recently.
Did he ever get shot down?
"No, but in his diary, there are 31 missions where guys were getting shot down and they had searched for those crews over the Adriatic Sea."
John Parker was born on February 15, 1921, and died on January 3, 1996, in Warroad.
As a kid in Claremont, he worked on the family farm before trying to enlist.
"He flunked the physical twice and finally passed it and became a pilot and went to war.
"Then he became a game warden and, a little later, the DNR added pilots, and they sent him to Warroad."
Jeff Parker was the perfect family member to speak for his father.
A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, he is the former Roseau County Veterans Service Officer, who is loquacious, occasionally brash and always colorful.
Mr. Parker congratulated the other inductees - Walter Fricke, a former combat pilot who served in Vietnam; Robert D. Hodge, a World War II veteran and Minnesota DNR game warden pilot; Barbara Mack, a Designated Pilot Examiner and MN pilot since 1965; Randall L. Sohn, an Air Guard and airline pilot; and Robert D. Wiplinger, a manufacturer of Wipline floats and creator of FireBoss firefighting aircraft.
Jeff Parker's Excerpts
This indeed is a great honor. My father loved horses - strong, independent and free. He rode horses until he left the farm. He had another kind of horse for the next 40 years. He had an airplane.
Parker noted that the airplane personified his dad's character and while flying, he was answerable only to himself. His ultimate purpose was to do good.
There were many stories left untold, many daily selfless acts of heroism and sacrifice. I've forgotten many, but I remember the calls to the house at all hours. Midnight, snowstorms, capsized boats, drowning victims, lost hunters, calls for help for someone injured across the lake, a sick person needing to get to the hospital fast.
Standing alongside Jeff at the podium was his mother, Carol, 98, who still lives at her home in Warroad.
She was a key member of the team. John was the pilot and Carol was his copilot on the ground.
My mother was often a part of this, driving out to the airstrip at night to shine the car lights on the unlit field so Dad could land. He'd radio the State Patrol folks in Thief River and give an ETA, and they'd call Mom.
The entire Parker family was present at the induction ceremony - their mother, Carol, and her other two children - Pamela, the eldest and Joel, the youngest.
Mr. Parker recalled decades earlier asking his dad about local poachers who may have needed the food for their families.
His dad, then the local game warden, eased his son's concerns.
"I know who the people are who need the food."
Parker was addressing an audience of mostly pilots - outstanding men and women, some elderly and some still flying high in the sky.
We know there is no successful halfway pilot. You need to be committed to excellence, and trust the habit patterns you've developed over the years, and you must respect the environment you work in. As we all know, aviation is not a pastime for fools.
In his conclusion, Jeff thanked the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame committee, numerous DNR officials, and his family.
In early May, Jeff noted that his dad arrived in Warroad in 1949 and retired in 1983.
He was still flying.
And yes, game wardens used to shoot wolves from the air. Local game wardens, Ed Johnston and Harland Pickett, were the sharpshooters.
"Dad had five or six different airplanes. They kept getting new ones. The last one was a Cessna 185 with floats."
John Parker had a habit of naming all of his airplanes. His two P-47s during the war were Honey Bun 1 and Honey Bun 2.
"He didn't name the Luscombe because he didn't like the sonofabitch. The ones after that he named Honey Bun 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7."
At 74, Jeff was complimented on the fine speech he had written.
"This isn't my first rodeo."
It was noted that he's been bucked off quite a few.
He laughed heartily.
Jeff Parker lives and plays golf in Apache Wells, Arizona.