When a citizen disposes of a profitable business in order to serve his State in office that is of more importance to the community than to the individual, he may be lauded for his public spirit without danger of diametric opinion. Such was the case of Gilbert R. Parker, late of Providence, who lived in this city all his life and did much for the public welfare in a busy career. Although of a retiring disposition, he made a host of friends by his genial manner and his convincing attitude on public questions. His character was above suspicion, his interest in social, religious and fraternal activities appealing to the members of organizations and cementing their regard and esteem. Exacting public duties were carried out by him with precision and his diplomacy at such times as occasion called for that attribute was unusually effective. He made no enemies that were apparent, for his sincerity evoked nothing but admiration, while his loyalty to friends and to the public which he served was clean and spotless.
He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, June 16, 1864, a son of Thomas and Rachel (Ritchie) Parker, and after receiving his initial educational training in the local public schools entered the Pharmaceutical College at Ann Arbor, Michigan, from which he was graduated. He then returned to Providence and made a study of the drug business in the establishment of E. A. Calder, where he remained until 1886. He then left this place and with Walter N. Saunders formed a partnership and established a drug business on Plainfield Street, Providence. This partnership was soon dissolved, Mr. Parker continuing the business alone until 1914, when he sold out, in order to devote his entire time to the duties of secretary of the State Board of Control and Supply, to which he had been appointed by Governor Pothier in 1912. Before this he had served the people as a member of the School Commission of Johnston and as one of the promoters of the annexation of that district which became a part of Providence, then being Olneyville. In 1900 he served as a member of the Common Council and also served from that year continuously, with the exception of 1903, as alderman from the Eighth Ward. He was Past Grand Master of Manufacturers’ Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and treasurer of the board of trustees. He was also a member of Nestel Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; and Ivanhoe Lodge, Knights of Pythias. He was past president of the Olneyville Business Men’s Association, trustee of the Olneyville Free Library Association, treasurer of the Eighth Ward Republican Club, and served as the first president of the Sunset Club. He died in Providence December 23, 1923. He also served as auditor of the city, elected April 11, 1918.
Gilbert R. Parker married Henrietta E. Hollings, daughter of Samuel A. Hollings, one of the oldest cabinet makers of Providence. Their children were:
- Earl S., married Mabel Stalk, and they are the parents of one child, Earl S., Jr.
- Roy L., married Anna Roy, and they are parents of one son, Gilbert R.
- Gwendolyn G. H., married Harold A. Potter, and they have one child, Reid Harold.
Mr. Parker was a man of the highest principles and was invariably actuated by the loftiest motives in his public service as well as his private life. He was the soul of generosity and was ever ready with a helping hand for those whose pathway in life had suffered from a profusion of thorns. His rare judgment and unimpeachable honesty of thought and deed fitted him perfectly for the important office of city auditor, which he filled with distinction and to the benefit of the people who elected him. He was a valuable and loyal citizen, whose death will long be deeply mourned.
Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.