By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

With his rosaries at his side, Deacon John Parker III, 74, a permanent deacon at Holy Saviour Parish in Norristown, died of cancer Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, at his residence in Blue Bell.

It was a fitting farewell for a man who credited the rosary as being the catalyst for his conversion to the Catholic faith. Years ago, while courting the girl who would become his wife, he observed her mother, an Italian immigrant, praying the rosary before an image of the Blessed Mother.

Shortly before Deacon Parker died, he told his pastor, “I came into the Church with the Blessed Mother, and I’m going to leave with her,” said Father Charles L. Sangermano, pastor of Holy Saviour Parish.

Deacon Parker was renowned for making rosaries for the less fortunate and for those who were ill. In his community, he was also a sought-after rosary repairman.

The eldest of two children of the late John and Theodosia (Derrick) Parker II, Deacon Parker was born July 2, 1934, in West Chester.

He graduated from Harrity Elementary School and Dobbins Vocational Technical High School in Philadelphia. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and later studied architecture at Villanova University.

He was a longtime employee of PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company), serving as a foreman in the company’s gas spanision.

He married Peggy Tomasello on Oct. 23, 1955, at Holy Saviour Church. They raised four children, one of whom died as a teenager.

“He was an excellent father, very thoughtful,” said his daughter, Marlene Parker. Throughout his illness he was concerned about the comfort of the family, she added.

He had a dry sense of humor and, as his daughter can attest, was an enthusiastic reader. Among Marlene’s cherished childhood memories are the years she accompanied her father to the library and to the used bookstore. “We both enjoyed reading – that was our thing we did together.”

At Holy Saviour, Deacon Parker was a daily communicant. He was also a board member and spiritual director of the Padre Pio prayer group, spiritual director and moderator of the Secular Franciscan Order, a spiritual director of the Holy Name Society and a coordinator of the works of charity of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

He was ordained a deacon on May 23, 1993, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia by Auxiliary Bishop Louis A. DeSimone.

He was assigned to Holy Saviour Parish, where he served until his death. As a deacon, he was particularly devoted to ministering to the sick.

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas celebrated Deacon Parker’s funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 6 at Holy Saviour Church. Concelebrants included Father James P. Olson, director of the Department of Permanent Deacons and Msgr. Sangermano, who was the homilist.

Deacon of the Word was Deacon Paul R. Kern. Deacon of the Eucharist was Deacon James E. Lyon. Both were diaconate classmates of Deacon Parker.

“John was a very compassionate inspanidual and a good role model in the diaconate community,” Deacon Kern said. “He always had his rosaries with him.”

In addition to his wife Peggy and daughter Marlene, Deacon Parker is survived by sons John IV (Kathy) and Christopher (Ashley); five grandchildren and a sister, Martha (Jack) Esbin.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by an 18-year-old son, Jacob.

Interment was at St. Patrick Cemetery in East Norriton.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or