NEWBURYPORT — The City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night honoring the 50th anniversary of the death of Army Sgt. Robert “Bobby” K. Parker, the first Newburyport resident to die in the Vietnam War.
Parker was born July 5, 1948 to Leslie and Helen Parker, who lived at 25 Moseley Ave. In 1966, he graduated from Newburyport High School where he was recognized as an exceptional baseball player.
After 19 months of service, Parker was killed instantly in the jungles of Vietnam on Nov. 30, 1969, when a booby trap exploded on a hillside in Binh Dinh Province, according to information from the military.
The city had previously dedicated a Little League baseball field located between Dawes and Jefferson Streets in his name, although it was demolished after a number of years and replaced by the Parker Ridge condominium complex.
On Monday, the City Council named Nov. 30, 2019, as “Robert K. Parker Day,” and authorized a special plaque in honor of his service to be placed at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Brown Square opposite City Hall.
William Shuttleworth, a Newburyport resident and U.S. Air Force veteran who recently walked across the country to advocate for veterans’ issues, addressed councilors, asking that they help the city recognize the 50th anniversary of Parker’s death.
“I think that was a young man that would have been my age today. He would have had a wife, children, grandchildren and a career. But he was snuffed out by a war that, at the time, was considered controversial and regrettable,” Shuttleworth said.
Kevin Hunt, the city’s veteran agent, said that Don DiMonda, who was a member of Parker’s company in Vietnam, will be flying to Massachusetts on Friday from his home in Tampa, Florida, to visit Parker’s grave in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
“He (DiMonda) was thrilled that a community would actually come together and consider doing something like this, so thank you,” said Hunt to the City Council on Monday.
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.