WWII vet, who worked with Coco Chanel and advertising executive Richard Parker, dies at 100
Friday, July 22, 2022
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Parker, Richard S., 100, of Wakefield, formerly of Narragansett, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, June 30, 2022. He was the husband of the late Ann Lewis Parker and the late Nina Ambroze Parker, and a friend of Nancy. Preston Bredbeck.
One of the “mad men” of New York’s Madison Avenue advertising world in the 1960s and 1970s, Parker was born November 16, 1921, in Everett, Washington, to an early Puget Sound family. Son of Carlton Hall Parker and Charlotte Newcomb Parker, he grew up in Rhode Island, descending from the Slater, Reynolds, Greene and Anthony families. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design, during which time he also served three and a half years in United States Army Infantry Service in the Pacific during World War II.
After graduating from RISD, Parker moved to New York and became a freelance artist, designing and executing interior displays for clients such as Revlon Cosmetics and United States Lines Shipping, and painting interior artwork. for retailers, such as a mural for the Bonwit Teller department store. . He was then assistant to Coco Chanel when she was creative director of the new Chanel Perfume showroom in Manhattan, a showcase of Chanel creativity. Here he worked directly with “Mademoiselle” Chanel creating a studio that was later featured in Vogue.
Parker went on to work for two of New York’s biggest ad agencies: BBDO, where his account was DuPont; and Bozell International, where he was VP Account Supervisor for accounts including Lee Jeans, the American Association of Railroads and the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft.
Later hired by textile giant JP Stevens to create advertising and promotional campaigns, he pioneered marketing innovations that included links to professional soccer players and Hollywood films. These included campaigns featuring famed New York Giants linebacker Sam Huff, Warner Brothers’ film Camelot, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Finian’s Rainbow. Parker’s innovations were later described by fellow actor Archie Thornton in the book Tales of a Madman, and his film connections were so productive that Warner Brothers invited Parker to join them for their 50th anniversary celebrations at the Cannes Film Festival. in 1973.
Also at JP Stevens, Parker was in charge of fashion fabric advertising for men’s and women’s clothing. He created a comprehensive textile dictionary at a time when synthetics were revolutionizing the industry, produced Broadway-style musical fashion shows for retail audiences at major trade shows, and created numerous promotional programs. In addition to her work with clients, Parker has served on the board of trade groups, including Woolens and Worsteds of America, the Men’s Fashion Association, and the Sales Promotion Executives Association.
Retiring early, Parker returned to Rhode Island, settling in Narragansett, where he was very active in the arts. A keen watercolourist, he has traveled extensively painting landscapes in places such as Cornwall, Cuba and Mexico. He painted with the local group Every Thursday Painters for many years and has exhibited his work at the Honolulu Academy of Art, RISD Museum of Art, Charleston Gallery and other venues. He served as Chairman of the Docent Council of the Museum of Art at RISD and volunteered for 25 years as a docent at the Museum. Additionally, he has served on the board of the Museum of Primitive Art and Culture in Peace Dale, served as an advisor to America’s Textile Museum in Lowell, Mass., and painted murals for various exhibitions at the South County Museum. He was also an enthusiastic member of the play-reading group Little Rest Readers.
In a late career change, Parker began writing in his 80s, publishing a number of essays in the Independent, Providence Journal and Narragansett Times about local history and observations from his travels. He has also published two books. The first was a memoir of her experiences working for Coco Chanel, The Improbable Return of Coco Chanel, as Witnessed by Her Assistant, Richard Parker. The second, Pacific Memories: War and Peace in Far Away Places, was a memoir of his time serving in the military in Japan immediately after that country’s surrender in September 1945. Always at his happiest when he had a project going on , Parker was working on a third book, on the traditional religious art of the Kingdom of Benin, and a collection of his essays, at the time of his death.
In addition to his wives Nina Ambroze, who died in 1972, and Ann Lewis, who died in 1992, Parker was predeceased by his partner Nancy Bredbeck; his son, Philip; and his daughter, Stephanie. He is survived by his son, Eric, of Johnstown, New York, his wife Jane and daughter, Sierra; a niece, Ann Taylor, of Arizona, and a nephew, Karl Parker, of Colorado; and many cousins: Betsy (Hall) and her husband David Palazzetti, of South Kingstown; Donald Hall, of Orinda, Calif.; Christine Hall, of Stamford, Conn.; and Jeffrey Hall, of Columbus, Ga.
A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 5 at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church at 72 Central St. in Narragansett. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Rhode Island School of Design at risd.edu/giving or to the Rhode Island School of Design Fund, Division of Institutional Advancement, Rhode Island School of Design, Two College Street, Providence, RI 02903.