Charles Parker Obituary

Service Information

 
In Memory of

Dr. Charles W. Parker M.D.

March 23, 1930 - April 23, 2013
Obituary

Parker, Charles Ward, MD Charles was born on March 23, 1930 and married Mary Christine Langston on June 13, 1953. He died in his home in Webster Groves on April 23, 2013 of pancreatic cancer at age 83. He is predeceased by his son Keith L. Parker and is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary Langston Parker, his brother Brent M. Parker, his daughters Christina M. Parker, Katherine Parker Ponder and Sandra Parker Bigg, his son Charles S. Parker, and 15 grandchildren. Charles graduated from Webster Groves High School in 1947. He attended Washington University in St. Louis for both undergraduate and medical studies, graduating from the...
Parker, Charles Ward, MD
Charles was born on March 23, 1930 and married Mary Christine Langston on June 13, 1953. He died in his home in Webster Groves on April 23, 2013 of pancreatic cancer at age 83. He is predeceased by his son Keith L. Parker and is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary Langston Parker, his brother Brent M. Parker, his daughters Christina M. Parker, Katherine Parker Ponder and Sandra Parker Bigg, his son Charles S. Parker, and 15 grandchildren. Charles graduated from Webster Groves High School in 1947. He attended Washington University in St. Louis for both undergraduate and medical studies, graduating from the medical school in 1953. He performed military service in the U. S. Navy on the Pacific island of Saipan from 1954 to 1956. He was a resident in Internal Medicine at Barnes Hospital, and was on the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in the Division of Allergy and Immunology for 4 decades. He made many important scientific and clinical contributions during his career, and was pivotal in the development of tests to determine if a patient has a penicillin allergy. He also developed test tube assays to measure substances that are important in asthma and other disorders, as well as a test to determine if a patient has had a heart attack. He contributed to determining the structure of a type of leukotriene previously known as slow-reacting substance of anaphylaxis (SRS-A), which led to the development of drugs to treat asthma. A more detailed account of his scientific achievements can be found in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from April 25 and the Washington University Record from April 29. Charles read widely about many subjects, but particularly enjoyed history, with a focus on World War II. He was an avid bridge player, achieving a rank of Life Master while playing with his daughter Sandy Bigg, and was known for erratic bidding that was often compensated for by his brilliant play of the cards. Charles spent time most summers in Manitou Springs Colorado, where he was an enthusiastic hiker. He was a man of integrity who always spoke his mind. Hard working and tenacious, Charles was always full of new ideas. While he had numerous scientific achievements, his family was the center of his life. A memorial service will be held at 3 PM on Sunday May 19 at the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves on 10 W. Lockwood Avenue Webster Groves MO 63119, which will be followed by a reception. Contributions can be sent to the Charles W. Parker Memorial Fund at the Division of Allergy & Immunology C/O Jill Munoz, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, Box 8122 St. Louis, MO 63116 or to the Webster Groves Public Library in Memory of Charles W. Parker, 301 E. Lockwood Avenue Webster Groves MO 63119-3102.

Dr. Charles Parker dies; pioneering researcher whose work led to treatments for allergies • By MICHAEL D. SORKIN msorkin@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8347

Charlie Parker, who died this week at age 83, was a research scientist at Washington University School of Medicine who avoided computers and wrote nearly everything in longhand. His pioneering work led to improved treatments for allergy and asthma sufferers.
He developed penicillin skin-testing to determine if patients were at high risk for anaphlaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
In 1964, he founded the university's division of allergy and immunology.
Friends described him as an amazing thinker, who slept little and worked incessantly. He worked at the university and then at home. He wrote on paper while sitting on a recliner at home and another at his office.
"And you had better learn how to read his handwriting," said Dr. H. James Wedner, a friend and colleague. "It was horrible."
Dr. Charles Ward Parker died Tuesday (April 23, 2013) at his home in Webster Groves. He was diagnosed in February with pancreatic cancer, his family said.
Dr. Parker was a professor of medicine at Washington University for more than four decades. He was an immunologist and allergist. A list of the publications he wrote takes up 15 pages.
He grew up in Webster Groves and graduated from the high school there in 1947. His father was the registrar at Washington University's medical school and his mother was a homemaker. He was the younger of two sons.
He loved history, but friends said he had a scientific mind and was destined to become a scientist.
He graduated from Washington University medical school in 1953 and married Dr. Mary Langston, one of the three or four women students in his class. She later became director of the health service at Washington University.
He served in the Navy from 1954-56. He was stationed on a CIA base on the Pacific island of Saipan, his family recalled.
He returned home for his residency at Barnes Hospital, where he was chief resident. He became interested in allergy to penicillin.
Penicillin had been discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and came into wide use during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. This led to the realization that approximately 1 of every 10,000 doses resulted in anaphylaxis, which may cause death in as many as one of every five of those patients.
At first, there were few alternatives for patients with severe penicillin allergies. Dr. Parker developed the first tests for this allergy and worked on ways to decrease patients' sensitivity to penicillin, said Dr. John Atkinson, who did postgraduate work with Dr. Parker.
The deadly reactions to penicillin and other allergies seemed to involve a compound that scientists couldn't identify.
Dr. Parker and others helped unravel the mystery, determining that the compound was derived from a fatty acid found in cell walls and ultimately became known as leukotrienes (loo-koh-TRY-en), which help regulate immune responses. Pharmaceutical companies built upon Dr. Parker's work to develop allergy and asthma treatments.
"That singular discovery of Charlie Parker's allowed us to understand much more fully the common allergy," Dr. Wedner said.
Dr. Parker also developed tests to help monitor critical biological compounds. One test helps diagnose heart attacks while another allows physicians to monitor levels of medications in heart patients, according to Dr. Victoria Fraser, chairman of the department of medicine at Washington University.
Dr. Parker was an investigator for the Howard Hughes Institute from 1977-1989. He was associate editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. He took emeritus status at Washington University in 1998 and continued to work in his laboratory.
He once told a friend that he would never want to live near an ocean. Because, he explained, it would be too much of a temptation to go swimming. And that would take time away from the work that he loved.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. May 19 at the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves, 10 West Lockwood. The body was cremated.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Mary Parker of Webster Groves; three daughters, Dr. Christina M. Parker of Boston, Dr. Katherine Parker Ponder of Clayton, and Sandra Parker Bigg of University City; a son, Dr. Charles S. Parker of Independence, Ore.; a brother, Dr. Brent Parker of Colorado Springs Colo.; and 15 grandchildren.

"Our family sends condolences on the loss of Dr. Parker. Emily has shared so much with us about his brilliance. Reading his obituary, he was an..." Debra Satterfield (Little Rock, AR)

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