Gary Rao Parker
January 29, 1947 - March 11, 2023
Gary passed away March 11, at The Ridge Care Center in Salt Lake City after a nine
year struggle with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Gary was born in Logan, Utah, the oldest of 4 children, to Rao Keith Parker and Lola
Irene Majia Parker. He was raised in Ogden, Utah.
After graduating from Ben Lomand High School in 1965, Gary worked for a year as a
meat cutter in a grocery store where he learned skills that served him well in processing
numerous antelope, deer, and elk that he harvested during many hunting seasons throughout his life.
Gary served a LDS mission in Germany. He enjoyed learning the language, talking to
the people and much to his dismay, had to eat onions on occasion to avoid giving offense. In
later years, Gary commented that missions are more for the missionary, to solidify their faith, than about gaining many converts.
Upon his return to Utah, Gary had no desire to continue meat cutting and enrolled in
Weber State College where he pledged the Excelsior fraternity. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and went on to earn a Master’s of Social Work in 1974 at the University of Utah.
Gary was excited to accept a social work position at the Wyoming State Hospital
because Wyoming had so many opportunities for fishing and hunting. While there, he met a
student nurse, Jolene Tyrrell, and they were married a year later in 1975. Three children, Heidi, Cody and Daniel soon followed.
Gary chose to be a strong voice for those who struggle with mental illness and were not
heard. Within a few years, Gary was promoted to Director of Social Work at WSH. In that
position, he hired and trained many social workers to support those with mental illness. He
became an associate professor of social work with the University of Utah and, in the 1990’s,
with the University of Wyoming. He supervised numerous graduate level social workers in their practicum experience. He became knowledgeable about healthcare facility requirements and served as a surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
In his free time, Gary was an avid outdoorsman. He spent as much time as possible on
riverbanks and reservoirs with his fishing pole to catch trout or his favorite fish, walleyes. Gary trapped muskrats, beavers, and was especially proud when he could lure fox into his traps.
Several local ranchers appreciated that he kept their irrigation ditches clear.
He was very proud of his three children and rejoiced in his four grandchildren. The family
had many adventures in the outdoors.
Gary was preceded in death by his parents Rao and Lola Parker and by his stepmother
He is survived by his wife Jolene, children Heidi Carter, Cody Parker, and Dan (Maija)
Parker, by grandchildren Elaine and Benjamin Carter, Max and Alex Parker, by brothers Craig (Judy) Parker, Todd (Debbie) Parker and sister Wendy (Craig) Hall.