Death of Dorothy June Parker, former missionary to Angola

Death of Dorothy June Parker, former missionary to Angola

1929 – 2013

Global Ministries was saddened to learn of the death of Dorothy June Parker, former missionary to Angola.

Dorothy died June 6, 2013, at Enloe Hospital in Chico, California, from a brain aneurysm suffered that morning at the age of 84.  One of Chico’s strongest advocates for social justice, human dignity, and peace, she was surrounded by family and friends at the time of her passing.  Dorothy is survived by her husband of 38 years, Louis Parker of Chico; her children and children-in-law, Margaret VanLaanMartin (Richard), of Chico; Kathy Allan (Robert), of Chico; David Van Laan (Gigi) of Austin, Texas; and Allen Van Laan (Jane) of Chico; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; her stepchildren, Anita Pullin, of Chico; Cherry Jensen, of Oakland; Patricia Davidson, of Chico; and Louis Parker, Jr., of Orland; lifelong friend, Jean Fadavi, of Concord, California; and friends across the United States, Canada, and Central America.

Dorothy Parker was born April 12, 1929, in Spokane, Washington, the only child of Charles and Lydia Toppin.  She graduated from high school in Spokane and attended Washington State University, earning a BA in Business Administration in 1951.  In 1987, she received a Master of Arts in Counseling from the University of San Francisco.  She worked many years for Butte County, holding several jobs, including addiction recovery counselor and mental health counselor.

She married James Van Laan in 1951.  In 1954, Dorothy and Jim were appointed missionaries to Angola by the Congregational Church.  Dorothy taught school and Jim worked in agricultural ministry.  They returned to the United States in 1958, eventually settling in Chico when Jim joined the faculty at Chico State University.  The family joined New Vision United Church of Christ, then the Congregational Church of Chico, United Church of Christ, in 1961.  Dorothy married Lou Parker in 1975. 

At the church, Dorothy held many leadership positions—Sunday school teacher, adult Bible study teacher, church council member, financial secretary, treasurer, and moderator.  Her Christian faith was authentic and deep.

Dorothy’s faith inspired her to be a tireless advocate for justice for the poor and to work diligently in peacemaking.  She helped organize the Chico Peace and Justice Center, serving for many years on the Board of Directors and as volunteer bookkeeper.  She was active with Butte County Habitat for Humanity, serving on its Board and working with local churches to support the organization.  Her Habitat involvement extended to Nicaragua.  For more than 20 years, she led teams there in building houses in two communities, Dario and Bluefields.

Her work in these communities went beyond housing.  She partnered with Seeds of Learning to build and improve the schools.  She arranged for sewing machines, school supplies, medical supplies, and many other materials to be sent to Dario in particular.  Dorothy supported many organizations working in peace and justice, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.  Her name is inscribed on the Wall of Tolerance at the National Civil Rights Memorial Center.

Concerned about the effects of U.S. policy in Central America, which she had observed firsthand, Dorothy joined in protesting the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.  In November, 2005, when she was 76, Dorothy was arrested for trespassing on Federal property and served 57 days in Federal prison.  The Chico Peace and Justice Center honored her courageous actions with the Chico Peace Endeavor award in 2006.  She was a steadfast participant in the Chico Peace Endeavor vigil at 3rd and Main.

Dorothy loved the outdoors, gardening, travel, Latin American folk music, theater, spending time with children and youth, holding elected officials accountable, and building lifelong friendships.  Intelligent and soft-spoken with a mischievous streak, Dorothy was strong, willowy, hard-working, kind, and consistent in her faith in God, her hope for a better world, and her love for her friends and family.  Although advancing Parkinson’s disease forced her to reduce her activities in recent years, she was still present in church on Sundays and at other events in the area.

The celebration of her life will take place on Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at New Vision United Church of Christ, 1190 East First Avenue in Chico. 

Messages of condolence to Dorothy’s family may be sent to her daughter, Margaret VanLaanMartin, 935 Poplar Street, Chico, CA, 95928.

Gifts in Dorothy’s memory may be made to:

  • Global Ministries 700 Prospect Avenue E., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100
  • New Vision UCC, 1190 E. First Avenue, Chico, CA 95926
  • Butte Habitat for Humanity, PO Box 3073, Chico, CA 95927
  • Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua Program, 121 Habitat Street, Americus, GA 31709-3498
  • Chico Peace and Justice Center, 526 Broadway, Chico, CA 95928.