John J. Parker
John Parker was born in Claremont, Minnesota. As a youth, he envisioned himself as a cowboy. His love of the outdoors would later lead him to an extensive career as a conservation officer. After high school he went on to attend Rochester Junior College. Later he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and received his commission as an officer in 1944. After flight training and earning his wings, he trained in the P-47 Thunderbolt and was deployed to Italy, where he flew 61 combat missions as a member of the 345th Squadron of the 350th Fighter Group. His follow-on orders sent him to the Aleutian Islands to fly the P-38 Lightning. During his time in the military he earned the Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, along with several other awards and battle stars.
Following the war Parker transitioned out of the military and joined the Minnesota Department of Conservation, where he became one of the first four pilots to be designated a flying Game Warden. In 1948 he began his flight duties and was eventually assigned to the Warroad Area, where he spent his entire 34-year career.
Parker’s conservation role began with the state’s elk study. Parker flew numerous missions tracing the elk range in Northern Minnesota. He found a way to “herd” the animals from the air, thus restricting the range of the elk and their habit of destroying farm crops. His next project was to track timber wolves. In the 1950s, wolves were considered destructive to livestock. From the air, it was possible to track collared wolves to learn their habits and ranges of individual packs. Parker would also spend hours in the air, tracking ducks, cranes, moose, and other species. As a game warden, Parker was also responsible for enforcing the law. To deter illegal hunting, Parker often flew at night to search for hunters shining deer. Challenging weather and low-level flying were common hazards throughout his career.
Parker has also taken part in countless searches for lost hunters and fishermen. On several occasions, he was needed to search for drowning or crash victims. He was cited by numerous organizations for his willingness and determination in finding those missing persons using his flying abilities. He also tracked weather balloons through their radio beacons, finding their landing locations so that ground personnel could retrieve them for the valuable data they provided. During Parker’s career, he flew hundreds of unique missions relating to the protection and preservation of Minnesota’s natural resources and public safety. He retired from the Department of Natural Resources in 1982.
In addition to his service as a Game Warden, John Parker contributed to his community, serving as Warroad’s Director of Youth Hockey for twenty years, for his role as the Director he received the Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association President’s Award. Parker also started a Golden Gloves program in Northwestern Minnesota. Parker served on the Warroad Airport Commission, helping the community’s grass strip become a regional airport. He belonged to the local Lion’s Club, the American Legion and was a church trustee and school board member.