Carolyn Partee Parker, famous for having three P names for years, went saying “wait a minute” into the home of her heavenly Father on Jan. 4, 2017. Or, as Carolyn also liked to say, she finally met her expiration date.
She lived life every day, loved the life she was living, loved her family and friends, and most of all, her Father in Heaven. Her constant struggle to have enough time for everything never changed. On her last sleep, she tried to stay awake long enough to boss her family and friends one more time.
The last of a large Southern family, Carolyn was born to Douglas Otho Partee and Estelle Stone Partee in Nashville, Tennessee, on July 17, 1927. She came to El Paso in 1946 “for a few months” and stayed. She married James “Pat” Paternoster in 1949. Her high school Spanish was sharpened by years of use, and the joy she took in a bicultural community was paramount to her love for El Paso. She used her natural talents to publicize events for her organizations, including Beta Sigma Phi, Jaycee Wives Club, Garden Club and Women’s Department of the Chamber of Commerce, which led to an ad agency job. She went on to work for the pioneering Mithoff Advertising Co., where she founded the agency’s public relations department.
Then, without a degree or training, Carolyn talked her way into a job reporting for the El Paso Times by making a deal with then managing editor Bill Latham. If her work was bad, he said, he’d pull her aside and tell her to go on home. But if it was good, she countered, Latham would assign her to cover city news rather than “society” events. As a result, Carolyn became one of the first female reporters to join the traditionally male city news staff in the early 1950s.
Carolyn left the Times to launch her own public relations firm and, later, Showcase Modeling Agency with best friend Barbara Roney Chaney. She was president of the Texas Public Relations Association, and an officer of the El Paso Press and Ad clubs, writing scripts for Gridiron Shows, which in its heyday featured “Alderbroad” Polly Harris. She was instrumental in Harris’ campaign, as well as that of Raymond Telles, the first Mexican-American mayor of a major U.S. city, and numerous other local politicians.
She married Walter Parker in 1965. A year later, she took over Tri-State Beauty School from another best friend, Laura Lynn, eventually building it into a multi-campus cosmetology school. The thousands of students aided by the schools were a constant source of joy and pleasure to her, including her most famous graduate, Maury Hopson, whose clients included Elizabeth Taylor and Bernadette Peters.
Carolyn mothered seven, all of whom survive her: Susan Parker Davies, Beth Parker Ernest, Robert Parker, James Paternoster, Laurie Paternoster Churchman, Shannon Parker and Amy Parker-Morris. Also close to her heart, and surviving her, are sons-in-law Michael Churchman, Don Ernest, Chris Eigsti and Russell Morris, and daughter-in-law Jacque Parker. Carolyn also is survived by 11 grandchildren: Katie Pablos (Julio), James Taylor Davies (Callie), Jacob Ernest, John Ernest (Brittany), Paul Ernest, Megan Churchman Ed (Robert), Justin Churchman, Nathaniel Eigsti, Madison McCarty, Cole Parker and Reilly Parker. She also had six great-grandchildren. Carolyn leaves behind best friends Barbara Chaney and Marta Duron Hernandez, many nieces and nephews, and countless other friends.
Many thanks to Drs. Sandra Rocha and Ahmad Hajj for helping us gain precious additional years with our mother. Thanks also to caregivers Angelina, Myra, Gloria and Paty who loved her as their own.
Carolyn was predeceased by her parents, sisters Dorothy Dorney and Douglas Moseley, brothers James and David Partee, and her former husbands.
Inducted into the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame, Carolyn received many honors including both Thanks badges, the highest awards from the Girl Scouts of America. She was founding secretary of the Churchman family’s nonprofit, Our Father’s Foundation, a board member for Career Colleges and Schools of Texas, and a member of Executive Forum.
Her later years were spent volunteering for St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Girl Scouts, the Rescue Mission and the YWCA, and as a docent at the El Paso Museum of Art.
She also enjoyed an inordinate amount of travel, never tiring, and took up painting inspired by her journeys. She will be remembered in a joyous fiesta for all her family and friends, where they have permission to tell funny stories about her.
A celebration of life is set for 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 5005 Love Rd., with a reception immediately following. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Carolyn Partee Parker Journalism Scholarship at UTEP. (Please make checks payable to UTEP, note scholarship name and mail to UTEP Office of Institutional Advancement, 500 W. University, Kelly Hall, 7th Floor, El Paso TX 79968 or make gifts online at https://givingto.utep.edu/ParteeParkerScholarship). Services entrusted to Martin Funeral Homes West.