By Christopher Arps

September 26, 2008

Anyone that knew Sherman for any length of time knew that he idolized the Kennedy family, especially John Fitzgerald Kennedy. His wife Julana told me that when Sherman was in his college years, he would watch a JFK video tape he had over and over and over again. She said he would sometimes fall asleep late at night in front of the television with the video still running!

I bought Sherman for his birthday a couple of years ago a beautiful, full colored, glossy book with pictures of President Kennedy during his life and presidency. I was so excited, because I just knew this was something he didn’t have in his “Kennedy collection.” When I presented it to him, he thanked me, and apologetically told me he already had it. Never wanting to disappoint a friend, he took it anyway, as if he was acquiring the book for the very first time.

When Sherman was in the state legislature, every nameplate he had would have his full name on it: Rep. Sherman Thompson Parker. I once asked him jokingly, “Why do you use your full name, is it a vanity thing?” He simply said, “No, I just like that name.”

I suspect now, that Sherman using his full name in his political life, may have had a little to do with his admiration for our 35th president. So I think it’s fitting that I begin his eulogy by quoting from his favorite president, – John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

President Kennedy wrote:

“The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of the final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.”

As we gather here this morning to celebrate the life of Sherman Thompson Parker, it is indeed a “magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.” Sherman’s life and his impressive achievements are a shining example to us all of triumph over obstacles, and his unexpected passing, while in the prime of his life, with so much more to accomplish, is indeed a tragedy.

Ecclesiastes: chapter 6, verse 14 says:

“A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such one hath found a treasure.”

A former colleague of Sherman’s in the legislature emailed me after his passing with no truer words: “Sherman was the MOST loyal friend one could have” – with most in all caps.

A college friend wrote in his memory book on his website:

“To know him was to love him. When I got word in college that my parents were splitting up, Sherman was there for me. He was the very best friend a man could have – very loyal, and he always listened to every word I had to say. He was a tremendous listener and valued all of those around him. He will be greatly missed, there is no doubt.”

“A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such one hath found a treasure.”

And oh did I find a faithful friend and treasure in Sherman Thompson Parker. I first met STP (as we affectionately called him) in 2001. A year before, I had decided that I was going to pursue my life long dream and become involved in politics. There was one name and question that I constantly heard: “Have you met Sherman Parker yet?” Luckily, a good friend who knew of my goal, met Sherman and told him that I was looking to get involved in politics.

He gave my friend his cell number, and told him to have me call him. I did. About six months later! I thought hey, this is Sherman Parker, what do I have to offer him? He’ll just blow me off. But he didn’t. He later invited me to join him and a couple of his friends at the swearing in of a new federal judge (I can’t remember his name) at the Eagleton Courthouse, and later that night, to a fundraiser for the LT. governor of Colorado – who just so happened was an African American Republican.

Sherman asked me that night if I wanted to help out on his upcoming campaign for state representative in St. Charles County – and as they say – the rest was history. It was the start of a friendship and mentorship, a brotherhood really, that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

In my association with him, I met national politicians and celebrities. I got the opportunity to stand behind President Bush while he was speaking at a rally for the future Senator Jim Talent- who later became my boss. All of these things occurred because of my friend Sherman Thompson Parker.

“A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such one hath found a treasure.”

If you were Sherman Parker’s friend, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you.

Here’s a little known fact about Sherman. Did you know he was an ordained minister? A few years ago when friends of his from college were getting married in Chicago, they asked him if he would officiate at their wedding. Of course he agrees, goes online, and orders an official looking ordained minister’s certificate to legally officiate their wedding. He got a real kick out of telling people he was an ordained minister.

If there was nothing STP wouldn’t do for his friends, there was nothing his friends wouldn’t do for him, even if it could be a little dangerous. STP asked me and another friend of his if we would help him put up signs one night during his race for Congress. I really didn’t want to, but how can you say no to Sherman Parker?

When we got down to our last few signs, we noticed it was lightening far off in the distance. I started getting real nervous because I just so happened was holding the four foot long, steel poles that the signs were going to be attached to. All I could think was – I’m going to be electrocuted putting up campaign signs for Sherman, in a vacant field in St. Charles County: “Who’s going to explain this to my mother?”

The result was obviously good, I’m still here, but the result of the election wasn’t so good. We lost the race for Congress – pretty badly, but Sherman demonstrated to me and my significant other and business partner Becky Davidson what the true meaning of friendship was.

As many of you here know, elections can be a deeply humbling experience, especially when you put all your time, sweat, blood, and energy into a campaign and the voters don’t reward you for your efforts. Politicians often take it as a personal rejection.

A friend told us recently that Sherman was very disappointed that he lost his election, but he was more troubled because he felt he had let Becky and me down. Sherman was our only client at the time, and instead of brooding and contemplating his loss –as he had every right to do – he was more worried about “taking care of us.”

His good friend Verna Harris Laboy wrote on his memory book:

Sherman, packed up “His Boyz” and came to Columbia and knocked on doors and worked hard on my campaign. Encouraging me every step of the way. I didn’t win the political race, but came out the winner anyway…I had Sherman Parker as a friend.

That was in 2002 – while Sherman’s was running for his own seat in St. Charles County.

“A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure.”

Sherman was dedicated to public service and truly felt it was a noble calling. He never took it for granted that a lot of people helped him get to the Legislature, and that ultimately, the voter’s of the 12th district were trusting him to represent them in Jefferson City.

He was a one of a kind individual, who voted his conscious in the Legislature, and bucked his party when he disagreed with them. He never worried about the consequences, because Sherman Parker never worried about what other people thought of him. He played soccer in High School and college instead of football or basketball, and he was a Republican instead of Democrat. He WAS truly one of a kind.

A few years ago at the end of the legislative session, Sherman gave Becky, me and Adam Schwadron a tour of the Capitol late at night. He even took us on the House floor – which is not allowed for non members. We all had been drinking and were a little tipsy, and we were having a good time, but I overheard Becky ask him as we entered the chamber: “Do you still get goose bumps when you step on the floor. He looked at her, and whispered “yeah”.

Sherman’s death last week was a stark reminder to us that none of us are promised tomorrow and that we’re all just really living on borrowed time. There’s a very fine line which is the balance between life and eternity. And at any moment, that balance can shift, and you’re life is over. Your best laid plans, aspirations, and goals, go unfulfilled forever.

Sherman called me at 7:00 in the morning on the day of his passing. It wasn’t unusual for me to talk to him that early, but on this particular morning, I was tired and rolled over in bed and said to myself, “I’ll call him later this morning when I fully wake up?” I never did, and a few hours later I got the call that my friend was gravely ill. I will have that regret for the rest of my life that I didn’t get that one last conversation with him.

I’ve witnessed a great deal of healing during the torturous week since Sherman’s passing. Mutual friends of Sherman – who weren’t speaking to each other only the day before – were hugging and crying because of the loss of Sherman. Respect for Sherman’s memory alleviating awkwardness and hurt feelings.

It’s become a tired cliché, but in moments like we experienced last week, it is so true: “Life IS to short” Cherish your family and your friends. Let go of grudges and bad feelings.

As many of you know, Sherman and I spent a great deal of time together. I probably talked to him 15 to 20 times a day. We traveled extensively in those cars he abused – notice I didn’t say drive – to Jefferson City, Washington D.C. Kansas City, Indianapolis, you name it. We’d talk about everything under the sun: politics of course, our childhoods, sports. But one topic we’d talk about quite often was our legacies. How were we going to be remembered after were gone?

He’d tell me he didn’t want his tombstone to just say “1971” to “2000” something. Sherman would say that he wanted people to know that he was here on this earth, and that he tried to make a difference in people’s lives. He wanted his daughters Alexandra and Jazmine to always know that he loved them dearly and that he was proud of them.

The Bible says: “Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names.”

Death will not kill your name my friend, because you were loved, respected, and admired by many, and your greatest legacy Alexandra is where your spirit will always live. I promise you I will try to carry on your legacy in a manner that honors your memory and legacy. I will not let them fade.

To Julana, Alexandra, Jazmine, and to Sherman’s family: Sherman wasn’t perfect – as none of us are, but he was indeed a good man who will be greatly missed. Find comfort in God’s grace, and all the memories you have of him, and in the fact that he loved you all.

Goodbye my friend and rest in eternal peace. I love you.