Allyn Robert Parker was born on March 11, 1946, in Vancouver. His father George was a plasterer nicknamed “Shorty” for never growing taller than five feet after getting rheumatic fever at 11. His mother Hazel was a homemaker who also bore three older children, Don, Davina and Georgina, and enjoyed reading: she chose her youngest son’s name from a romance novel about a Welsh forester.
Allyn was never bookish. He preferred adventure: commandeering his bicycle 45 km from home to Fort Langley, B.C., or target shooting. His travels provided fodder for his budding obsession with photography. He had his own darkroom, worked on the high school yearbook and played the bongos. The one subject he excelled at was technical drawing.
That skill landed him a job with the Vancouver park board, despite not having graduated from high school because he was short an English credit. For two years, Allyn helped survey and plot parts of Stanley Park, which he referred to as “his.” Around then he met Sandra, an aunt’s foster child, and they married in 1967. Eventually the couple moved to Port Alberni, B.C., where Allyn worked as a municipal draftsman. He and Sandy were married 12 years and had three children, Vikki, Dawn and Allyn Dean, before splitting up.
Soon, Sandy befriended Isabel, a young mother living down the street whose own marriage broke up the same weekend as Sandy and Allyn’s. One night at the local bar, Allyn introduced himself to Isabel—and asked her to spy on his ex. Isabel was outraged: “I laid into him! I went up one side, down the other, smack, smack, smack,” she recalls. As it turned out, “He actually liked that! He thought it showed that I was ethical.”
A week later, Allyn invited Isabel to a wedding. She obliged, thinking, “Nobody should have to go to a wedding alone.” That night, Allyn suddenly kissed her. “I can’t tell you how blinding it was,” she says. “I knew immediately that he was mine.” Isabel, then 23, took him home. Allyn, 36, never left. They married in 1982 at a church. Allyn adopted Isabel’s daughter Nancy “Jordan,” and the whole family, including Vikki, Dawn and Dean, plus two special needs individuals, Kelly and Mike, moved into a big heritage house in town.
The kids say Allyn was a jokester and a generous man who never raised his voice in anger. When Dean, just 14, lit off a pipe bomb in the basement, Allyn stayed calm, and assured Isabel this was “guy stuff” their son would outgrow. When Vikki learned to drive, Allyn took her on a long and windy route to Coombs, B.C. When Nancy went through a messy divorce, Allyn drove back and forth to Nanaimo, B.C., to support her and her children. Every month, he met Dawn for lunch to catch up. And cooking was a way Allyn made people feel included. He delivered homemade meals to his sister-in-law Margaret while she was having cancer treatment—including her favourite, olive-and-veal-stuffed pasta.
For all the years Isabel and Allyn were married, they still acted like newlyweds. In 1991, they took their first cruise to Hawaii. This past spring, Isabel surprised him with another Hawaiian cruise for his 65th birthday. Allyn had seen a documentary about bike riding down Haleakala mountain in Maui. “This was on his bucket list,” says Isabel. She was nervous, so Allyn bought a bike to practise riding.
On Nov. 26, they embarked. For a week, they luxuriated over intimate dinners, read, toured the islands—as Allyn anticipated his bike trek. On Saturday morning, he and Isabel visited a sugar plantation on Kauai, and then Allyn flew to Maui. Before he left, he wrote Isabel a note: “I promise to be careful, and I will have a good time. Thinking of you on my adventure. I love you so much. Allyn.” Isabel saw it too soon, and told him, “You better come home to me.” Allyn wrote another note, this one dated, that Isabel found later: “I will come home to you tomorrow. Love Allyn.”
At 2 a.m., Allyn was driven up the mountain. He witnessed a glorious red-pink sun break over puffy clouds, and took photos of the stunning vista and of his group. He had a photo taken of himself with his bike. And then, Allyn began his adventure. After 9 a.m., at a tight curve, Allyn crossed the double yellow lines. An SUV rounded the bend. Allyn tried to brake and swerve to safety, but it was too late. On Dec. 4, at 10:30 a.m., Allyn Robert Parker, 65, was pronounced dead atop Haleakala.