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Remembering Ronald Thomas Parker




"Ron was a dear friend of ours and generously gave his time and talent to help us create the foundation that you know today," says Alisa's Angels Board Chair Liz Wallendorf.


Ronald Thomas Parker, 79, passed away peacefully on December 19th, 2023 from Acute Myeloid Leukemia at TMC, Tucson, Arizona surrounded by family.


He was born on June 19th, 1944 in Valentine, Nebraska to John and Thomasina Parker. Ron grew up in the Sand Hills of Todd County, South Dakota on the family ranch. The eldest of four brothers, ranching was how he developed a strong work ethic, leadership skills, and a cowboy spirit. Following the Blizzard of '52, when he was snowed in with his other classmates in a one room schoolhouse for two days, 8-year-old Ron climbed telephone poles with the men to help bring phone service to their rural community.


He later attended Chadron State College, where he was president of the Business fraternity, voted Prince of the Winter Ball, and honored as Mr. Future Business Executive of Nebraska in 1967. He graduated from Chadron with a double major in Business Administration and Economics and Accounting and a minor in math. After graduation, Ron took a position at Eastern Wyoming College teaching algebra, trigonometry, and accounting, and was the assistant basketball coach for the Lancers' inaugural season. During that period he also started working towards a Master's degree at the University of Wyoming.


Looking for warmer weather, in 1970 he took a position teaching at Arizona Western College in Yuma, and worked at various part-time jobs including Sheriff and Skellet Accountants. While in Yuma, he met his first wife of 20 years, Lorene, whom he married in 1973.


In that same year, Ron completed a Master's of Accounting at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he met his future business partner, John Cotton. Upon graduation, the two worked at what was then Pete, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., passing the 4-part Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam in 1974. The pair went into business together in 1976, joined soon thereafter by Tom Johnson to form Cotton, Parker, & Johnson (CPJ). Despite having young families at home, the founders of CPJ worked tirelessly to build a client base in those early years.


During this time Ron also taught at Pima Community College and was on the board of the Pima Federal Credit Union, which later became CPJ's first credit union client. CPJ quickly became specialists - one of the biggest credit union auditors in the US - and brought on more partners - before merging with Clifton Gunderson in 2000.


As Ron wrote, looking back on CPJ after retirement in 2009, 'John and Tom were about as good partners as you could get. I don't know two guys I would have trusted more or were any more decent and fair minded.'


Ron retired from public accounting in 2009. In retirement, he remained active with consulting, speaking engagements, teaching at Pima Community College, and serving on the boards of Alisa's Angels and Immanuel Presbyterian Church. He also enjoyed spending more time with his loving wife of over 28 years, Kathy, whom he married in 1995. The two of them traveled the US together in an RV, visiting friends, family, and the ranch.


Growing up on a cattle ranch, raising cattle for 4-H and for college savings, Ron was into Rodeo from an early age. As a boy, he was bucked from a cow, and even tried his hand at roping. He once tried to dog a steer, but just knocked the wind out of it instead. Fortunately, in 1974, work and Rodeo came together when Ron was asked to audit the Tucson Rodeo - La Fiesta de los Vaqueros.


That same year, 1974, he was asked to become a Committee Member on Finance. This year would have marked Ron's 50th anniversary with the Tucson Rodeo.


Ron is survived by his wife Kathy; his sons Jon, Jeff and Ryan; his first wife Lorene; grandchildren Natalie, Ben, Tyler, Kaiden, and Alex; and siblings Ken (Jan), Dallas, and Randy (Lynn). Ron lived life to the fullest and found joy in his family, career and western roots. He was admired for his humorous storytelling, sense of decency, and optimism. Ron will be deeply missed but the legacy he leaves in both his professional contributions and personal relationships will live on. A celebration of life service will be held at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2024 at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 9252 E. 22nd St, Tucson, Arizona 85710, where his ashes will be interred by his family in the memorial garden.


In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Ron's memory to the Immanuel Presbyterian Church Endowment Fund (same address) or Alisa's Angels, a non-profit providing college scholarships, https://www.alisasangels.org/donate. Ron was deeply committed to the mission of both organizations and served on their boards.

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