Talk to just about anyone who's been involved in Carroll County sports, and chances are they'll know a Ken Parker story.
Mine goes back a few years. I was shopping in a small Westminster chain store whenI happened to see Parker and his wife, Nancy.
We wound up talking for at least 30 minutes. Nothing important, just small talk -- the weather, South Carroll in general, a little about his football program and my job.
It was a friendly chat with a couple of friendly people.
And that's the legacy Parker leaves behind as he retires as the only football coach in the first 25 years ofSouth Carroll High.
Parker was a friend to many who met him or played for him.
They say you're not supposed to become too friendly with the people you write about in this business, but that was hard not to do with Ken Parker.
While some coaches consider the press a nuisance, especially when we're asking about a bad game or why someone got kicked off the team, Parker appreciated the importance of newspaper coverage for his players.
He knew that the more publicity good players got, the more likely that college coaches would find out about the athlete.
Parker was fanatical about trying to link his players with the right college. Each year, he sent information about histop players to more than 100 Eastern colleges. He tried to match athletes with schools suited to their athletic and academic abilities.
"He tries to place the guys where they'll play," said Bob Poist, a 1980 graduate who was a standout at Towson State, for a 1987 series Iwrote on recruitment of county athletes. "I know one thing -- that he sure works hard for his players."
Parker was blessed with a stable situation at South Carroll, and he's the first to admit it. In 25 years, Parker worked with just one athletic director (Fred Baker), two principals (Chester Elder and Dave Booz) and two county supervisors(the late Herb Ruby and Earl Hersh).
"Fred's been an outstanding athletic director," Parker said. He said Elder also was supportive, especially in the early years when the team struggled.
The feeling was mutual.
"I was just an athletic director moving over from Mount Airy High, and I was wet behind the ears," Baker said. "He taught me a pretty good bit about football.
"A more dedicated, loyal person you couldn't have asked for."
Added Hersh, "He is 'Mr. Football'down there. He is truly what you would call a leader of young men.
"If I had a son in school, I would like (Parker) to be his coach."
Parker's staff tended to be loyal, too. Gene Brown's been an assistant for more than a decade, and others stayed long enough to move tojobs with more responsibility at other schools.
Lynn Carr, for example, went from assistant at South Carroll to one of the best coaches in the metro area, at Harford County's Bel Air High in the 1970s. Carr moved back to the area several years ago and landed a job in Frederick County, where he has become the supervisor of athletics and physical education.
Bruce Cowan moved on to become the football coachwhen Liberty opened down the road from South Carroll in 1980, later became athletic director there, then moved up to assistant principal at Francis Scott Key.
John Magee went to Liberty as a member of Cowan's football staff and later became the head coach when Cowan was promoted to vice principal.
Dale Green also is an assistant football coach at Liberty and is the head softball coach there.
Vince Parnell is the athletic director at Howard High.
Through it all, Parker kept his ego in check. When The Sun selected Parker as its metro area Coach of the Year in 1988, Parker repeatedly thanked me for helping him receive the honor.
I told him I'd had nothing to do with the selection, I merely wrote a short story about him.
The sportswriters downtown didn't need me to tell them what a good job Parker did with his team that year.
They knew class when they saw it.